Northern Ireland

Stormont art collection should go on public display, experts say

A close-up of a painting of St George's Market in Belfast, one of the artworks in the Stormont collection
Image caption A close-up of a painting of St George's Market in Belfast, just one of the artworks in Stormont's £2m collection

An expert panel has recommended that more paintings from Stormont's art collection, which is worth over £2m, should go on public display.

Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has also said that about £40,000 per year is to be spent buying new works for the collection.

There are more than 1,400 paintings in all, bought with public money.

They include work by artists like Colin Davidson, William Conor and Catherine McWilliams.

'Means to survive'

Successive governments in Northern Ireland have bought local art since 1963, but only a fraction of the collection has been on public display.

Image caption Part of Stormont's art collection has been put on public display in Strabane's Alley Arts Centre, along with 10 works collected by the Irish government

Some of the works are only on show in government offices, while many are in storage on the Stormont estate.

Mr Ó Muilleoir established an expert panel earlier this year to advise him on how the collection could best be used.

Among their recommendations are that:

  • Works from the collection should be exhibited in venues across Northern Ireland
  • A curator should be appointed to manage the artworks
  • A website should be developed to display the paintings online

The five-person panel was chaired by the chief executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Roisin McDonough.

The panel also said that about £40,000 should be used to buy new works by local artists each year.

Image caption Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council, chaired the panel which recommended that the works go on public display

Mr Ó Muilleoir said that he agrees with the panel's recommendations and will act on them.

"In 12 years we haven't bought any new works of art," the finance minister said.

"Therefore we haven't given artists the means to survive, to thrive, to do well.

Image caption Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said Stormont will begin "investing" in locally produced art every year

"We have effectively boycotted the work of artists and I think that's wrong."

"I'm hoping now that we will start buying art and investing in art each year."

Ten works from the collection are currently on display in the Alley Arts Centre in Strabane, County Tyrone, along with 10 works collected by the government of the Republic of Ireland.

There are plans to display more of the art in community venues like schools, libraries and hospitals across Northern Ireland next year.

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