‘Cover to Canvas’ Art Exhibition – The Curator Report
How the project began…
In its five centuries as a centre for learning in the law and for promoting collegiality and professional standards in the legal profession, King’s Inns has acquired many important works of literature and art among other fine objects. The library of The Honorable Society of King’s Inns houses thousands of books, some rarely perused at all and some never seen by the public. Even though the King’s Inns is primarily a legal library, we also house a historical/heritage collection of non–legal material. Our oldest books date back to the 1500’s.
The King’s Inns employs a Conservation Technician (Louise Gartland), who manages the day to day care of our historical collection, assessing the volumes’ requirements for longevity, maintenance and preservation. During recent assessment it came to light that many of our volumes are in a state of deterioration that now require restoration.
Renate Ní Uigín, our Librarian, came across a first edition Charles Darwin (Geological Observations on South America) in the collection. After being assessed it was decided that it needed full conservation rebinding as, among other problems, the front and back boards were detached and damaged. This type of restoration requires specialist external intervention. It is an expensive process that is not easily funded, particularly due to the number of volumes in a similar state.
It was while assessing the Darwin that Louise first had the idea for the project. An artist herself, she felt inspired, wishing to create a piece of art based on the sketches within the book. The idea grew and Louise wondered if other artists, given the opportunity, would be similarly inspired by the many books in the collection?
The King’s Inns’ Under Treasurer, Sean Aylward, agreed to the ‘Cover to Canvas’ project that Louise proposed. After several meetings with key staff members about the potential, merit and feasibility of the project, the various King’s Inns Committees gave approval and Louise and Renate were given full autonomy to develop the concept and take it to fruition.
Artists were sought, presentations were held, research slots were provided for the artists and so the exhibition project began to bloom. Artists poured over the books, surveyed the surroundings and began their creative process.
Never before this year did the Benchers’ of King’s Inns contemplate mounting a modern art exhibition. However, for the first time in our history, with the support of the King’s Inns Fine Art Committee and the Library Committee, we mounted an art exhibition of works by 14 visual artists in medium ranging from photography to collage, to works in oil and wood and watercolours. All of these works were inspired by an extraordinary range of illustrated, illuminated and exotically bound books in our great library and the library environment itself. More details on the project can be seen here.
The exhibition was held in the Benchers’ Room at King’s Inns from the 30th April until the 15th of May 2015. Several of the works on show, as well as many prints of the work, were sold to discerning art collectors.
Also on show at the exhibition was our first edition Charles Darwin and our 1542 text on Magna Carta, both restored by Benjamin van de Wetering of The Ox Bindery in Sligo. He wrote an article for us previously on the restoration of the Magna Carta that you can find here. We have other books on view that illustrate the damage our books have incurred down the years and the urgent need to restore them.
Images from this, our first ever art exhibition can be seen here in our online catalogue.
Our Facebook posts over the 2 weeks leading up to the art exhibition were little stories about each of the artist’s inspirations and our King’s Inns website have each artist’s biography.
In attendance on the night of the launch (30th April) were…
The Hon. Mr Justice Michael Moriarty (Chair of the Fine Arts Committee), James O’Reilly, SC (Chair of the Library Committee), Under Treasurer of the King’s Inns Sean Aylward, King’s Inns’ Librarian Renate Ní Uigín, Exhibition Curator Louise Gartland and many other esteemed colleagues and friends of the King’s Inns as well as artists and their families and friends.
The participating artists were…
Alan Clarke, Brian Maguire, Bláthnaid Ní Mhurchú, Cliodhna Quinlan, Colm Mac Athlaoich, Jeanne Merer, Joby Hickey, John Short, Líosa McNamara, Margaret Corcoran, Mike Bunn, Myra Jago, Róisín Gartland & Stephen McGovern.
You can find web links to their online pages on the King’s Inns Art Exhibition webpage here.