Dáil debates

Thursday, 26 October 2006

3:00 pm

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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Question 2: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the situation in regard to art works previously on display in the Great Southern Hotels; if the collection has been returned to the State in its entirety; if he plans to proceed with an inventory of all art in the possession of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35071/06]

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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Following my intervention with the Dublin Airport Authority, the Great Southern Hotel group returned all the works in its possession to the OPW last month. This followed a period of research by the visual arts consultant appointed by the Arts Council, who made visits to each of the Great Southern Hotels to codify the works. The Arts Council is confident that all works in Great Southern Hotel group's ownership at that time were returned. Arrangements are being made for public display of the works.

A number of bodies and agencies have responsibility for purchasing and acquiring art works, including the OPW, the Arts Council, the National Gallery, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Crawford Gallery and local authorities. Each of these maintains an inventory of these works. For example, the OPW maintains a list of the works in its collection. The Arts Council also has a complete list of works, purchased through the joint purchase scheme, in its collection. The responsibility to maintain inventories and to develop appropriate policies in this regard resides with these organisations and all other State bodies which acquire art works. The bodies responsible for collecting works are best placed to maintain such works in a way that is consistent with their own policies.

The joint purchase scheme was established in the 1950s to encourage the acquisition of art works for display in public places, creating opportunities for the public to come into contact with art and providing essential opportunities for artists to have their work purchased. While the current inventory held by the Arts Council requires updating, it shows that up to the 1990s more than 1,600 works had been purchased under the scheme by 175 bodies. These bodies include, for example, the ESB, UCD, DIT, Sligo General Hospital, Aer Lingus, VHI, Bord Fáilte Éireann, Cork Corporation, Roscommon County Library and Kilkenny Design Workshops. Works were purchased on a 50:50 basis and at that time the Arts Council's contribution to the cost stood at almost €180,000.

It is understood from the council that of the 1,600 works purchased under the scheme, 143 were jointly purchased with CIE. These include works by Gerard Dillon, Patrick Collins, Louis le Brocquy and Basil Blackshaw. These were purchased primarily in the 1960s and 1970s, at a cost to the council of £7,233. The total cost of these works came to £14,466.71. The Arts Council is undertaking research into the joint purchase scheme which will update the inventory of works purchased through the scheme, establish the current location of works and inform Arts Council policy on the amortisation of works and on its obligations to the disposal of works.

The Arts Council is independent on a day to day basis. I have made the council aware of my firm view that these works of art are part of our national heritage and belong, in effect, to the people of Ireland. They should not be disposed of for short-term pecuniary gain and should be regarded as part of the national collection and retained for continued public viewing and enjoyment. This is also the view to which the Dublin Airport Authority subscribed and I am happy with the final outcome in that situation.

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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I thank the Minister for that detailed reply. On the last occasion I raised this issue in the House, he did not have as much information and much work has obviously been done in the interim. I am delighted these paintings will go on display. The Minister stated that 143 paintings were purchased for display in the Great Southern Hotel Group. Have they all been returned?

This programme, involving the purchase of 1,600 paintings, had major benefits. Will the programme be reviewed in the context of continuing with that format, with various State agencies purchasing works in conjunction with the Arts Council?

In the archives of museums, there are many priceless objects that should be on display. Local authorities have a role to play in this area. Will the Minister develop this further, along with the joint purchase scheme? Local authorities, through heritage centres and local museums, should be given the option of displaying particular works of art.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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Arrangements are entered into with local authorities by the national cultural institutions from time to time to ensure items go on display in the regions and I encourage this.

The Dublin Airport Authority returned 91 works from the Great Southern Hotel Group to the State and they are now in its possession. Arrangements are being made for their exhibition. We are still pursuing the remainder and I will keep the Deputy informed of progress.