Dublin Up

Left: Rubicon Gallery’s Josephine Kelliher with artist Liam O’Callaghan. Right: Dublin Contemporary curator Christian Viveros-Fauné with Sir Bob Geldof and Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan. (Except where noted, all photos: Gemma Tipton)

THE WEEKEND OF OPENINGS in the run up to Dublin Contemporary’s big gala bash were laced with a heavy dose of rumor, competitiveness, and generous hospitality. At Martin Healy’s premiere at the Temple Bar Gallery last Friday night it was all about lists: who was on, and who was off. They say no one from the Irish Museum of Modern Art was invited. “Surely that can’t be true?” my friend said, before countering with the rumor that Jarvis Cocker was going to play the event. Then there was Tom Molloy’s launch of his exhibition “Doubt” on Saturday at Rubicon Gallery, which was washed down with liberal martinis. “Don’t forget, it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” another friend advised. “Pace yourself, please.”

Needless to say we didn’t, because this is Dublin, and if there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s enjoying ourselves. By the time we reached Kevin Kavanagh’s opening on Saturday for Ulrich Vogl, dealers from around the world were gathering in force. Telltale signs—a slightly different cut to a well-tailored suit, a certain urbanity and measured politeness—marked them from the regular crowd: “So good to see you. Is one of your artists in the show? Oh, I have three.”

Dublin Contemporary, years in the planning, has already had a handful of international launches, plus strong doses of controversy leading up to a last-minute change of curators, so we were all agog to see it. The Royal Hibernian Academy’s Patrick Murphy arrived at Kavanagh’s gallery, after taking U2’s Adam Clayton around his James Coleman and Lisa Yuskavage exhibitions. “Yes, Adam was happy. And Lisa too.” We wished we could be in two places at once.

Left: Artist Kysa Johnson. Right: Dublin Contemporary curator and artist Jota Castro with Josephine Kelliher.

On Sunday, scraping the residue of the night before from my eyes, I presented myself at Dublin Contemporary’s main venue: the crumbling and previously neglected splendor of Earlsfort Terrace. The phalanx of camera crews weren’t for me, but I picked up my heels nonetheless and ran smack into Bob Geldof, there to do the “ribbon-cutting” honors. How to explain I spent my teenage years in love with Sir Bob? “What do you think?” I asked. “It’s fucking brilliant,” said Bob.

The promised brunch at Dublin’s Residence—a private club trying to find a new identity now that many private-member types are either officially bankrupt or tactfully hiding their cash—consisted of attractive but insubstantial things on silver trays, so we rescued artist Brian O’Doherty and art historian Barbara Novak and took them to lunch at the Cliff Town House round the corner. “Art is what you can get away with. I’m quoting Mary Josephson, you know,” said O’Doherty. His installation for Dublin Contemporary, Hello Sam, sited at the National Gallery, is a gorgeously moving tribute to Samuel Beckett, in which the cast of a body lies prone within one of O’Doherty’s rope drawings. At each corner you can listen to a sound installation made up of imagined conversations with Beckett.

At the other end of the National’s Milltown Wing, Liam O’Callaghan’s time finds you a good place to fall, a huge panel of muted lights, is a marvelous hangover panacea. We tore ourselves away from the work for the final furlong. Night had fallen, and back at Earlsfort Terrace the atmosphere was thrilling. Cynicism had evaporated, although not necessarily to be replaced by sincerity. Jorge Tacla, whose work is installed in the National Gallery, said he’s “amazed we’re so nice in Ireland.” I felt smug, as if I could take credit for an entire island’s amiability.

Left: Sara Amido, artist Alejandro Almanza Pereda, and Isabel Macedo. (Photo: Marc O’Sullivan) Right: Artist Brian O’Doherty with RHA Director Patrick Murphy.

We followed the throng through the labyrinth of corridors. The speeches took place in one of the largest rooms, where impressively, though inexplicably to some, a large work by one of the curators, Jota Castro, is installed. His fellow curator, Christian Viveros-Fauné, took the podium. The sound quality wasn’t great, but we did make out him thanking Castro. “What did Cuba have to do with this?” asked a woman in vertiginous heels.

Bob Geldof made a rousing speech; as if there weren’t enough to love already. “You can see some of the work here and say ‘What the fuck is that?’ But looking back over the past few years, you have to say ‘What the fuck was that?’” We all laughed, although we were also reminded, rather uncomfortably, of how deeply the globe is mired in debt. I met artist David Adamo on the way to see Wang Du’s Le Berceau, an enormous bed that can hold fifty people––though we’re not allowed to disport ourselves on it right now. “It rocks,” says the attendant. “Just not tonight.” “I feel like every day here I’d find something new,” said Adamo. With more than one hundred artists (including Adamo himself), he might be right.

The party ratcheted up a notch just as they sent us out into the night and back to Residence. “I love it here,” said Amsterdam dealer Gabriel Rolt, who was there with one of his artists, Anna Bjerger. “I feel like a fish in my own water.” But an hour or so later, as a table collapsed in a crash of glass and a mess of wine, he announced, “This is the perfect moment to leave.” The core crowd was growing increasingly Irish. “It’s the Europeans. They’re in bed by 10 PM.” Wise Europeans. There were still events to come at the Royal Hibernian Academy, National Gallery, Douglas Hyde, and Hugh Lane.

It all felt like five years ago, as if the crash never happened. Everyone was thrilled. I walked through the dark streets of Dublin past knots of arty revelers looking for a last pit stop. “Come on,” called one. “The Irish government will pay!” Given the state of the economy and taxes, that really means me, so I called it a night and set off for home. Oh—and just to scotch the rumors—Jarvis Cocker didn’t play, and Christina Kennedy from IMMA was there.

Left: Sotheby's consultant Mareta Doyle with Monica Bonvicini’s Add Elegance to Your Poverty. Right: Artist David Adamo with Magnus Edensvard of Ibid Projects.