The College Gallery Art Hire Scheme has been reintroduced this year after a five year hiatus, giving Trinity students who live on campus the opportunity to become proud owners of Trinity College’s finest and most famous artworks, albeit temporarily for the academic year.
Catherine Giltrap, who was appointed as the first full-time Curator of the College Art Collections in 2007, resurrected the scheme for this academic year after a lack of human resources made it impossible to administer it after 2003.
Last month, the valuable collection was put on display at the Science Gallery. Students and staff submitted for their favourite artworks from the display. The paintings, prints and posters were then allocated on a lottery based on the submissions. Thankfully, students got one up on staff members – who had to wait their turn as the first round of allocations went entirely to students.
Although everyone who attended the display ended up with a piece on ‘ballot day’, some were undoubtedly luckier than others, walking back to their rooms with extremely impressive works under the arm. Ms Giltrap told Trinity News – “If you want to know about famous works of art, you can’t get any more famous than Picasso. Suffice it to say that one student, the identity of whom I cannot divulge, is the lucky temporary caretaker of an original linocut print signed by Picasso himself.”
The scheme first began in 1959 by Professor George Dawson, who also helped establish the Genetics Department the previous year. “The objective was to enable students, first and foremost, and staff at a later stage, to become familiar with Irish and, subsequently, international artworks by developing a collection of modern and contemporary art displayed in student rooms, staff offices and common areas in College. It was Professor Dawson’s hope that ‘each generation of students will be aware of major works by Irish artists of their own time’” Ms. Giltrap explained.
Ms. Giltrap also re-established the College Gallery Student Committee this year who volunteer to help with administering the scheme, and also to help assist in choosing new paintings to purchase for the collection. At present the Committee consists of Junior and Senior Sophister History of Art and Architecture students, but it is hoped that students of different disciplines will become involved in the near future, with the 50th anniversary of the Trinity College Modern Art Collection falling next year. At the display last month, each Committee member received a pile of ballot sheets of submitted preferences, and according to Ms. Giltrap “worked very hard” in securing the best loot for their randomly allotted group of students or staff.
Sorcha Richardson, a member of the student committee said that the scheme was a success this year although it was unfortunate that not all paintings were allocated. The remaining paintings will be put on display in common areas around campus. “It is a great initiative and a huge task in itself. The scheme is new to many people. Hopefully it will grow next year” Ms. Richardson said.
Ms Giltrap explained that the lack of gallery space and the two day display held this year “made it difficult to display the collection long enough for everyone to view them but we might try a new online viewing system next year”. Ms. Richardson also told Trinity News that it was interesting tmore males than females expressed interest in the scheme.
When asked about trusting the student body with such precious material, Catherine Giltrap said “no priceless paintings have gone missing surprisingly” and although there were a few stories of near-disasters over the years, “the students probably know more about them than I do. This is an active collection, nothing like a museum collection, so one has to accept that the artworks live and are lived with! I don’t think this kind of scheme runs anywhere else in Irish universities to the same extent as at Trinity College.”
Ms. Giltrap also expressed some optimism and faith in the artistic tastes of the Trinity community – “We purposely only labelled the pictures with their collection numbers rather than artist names and titles, so that people could free their visual eye to just choose what attracted them.”