A new art museum and cultural heritage site will open to the public in Kilkenny tomorrow (Friday, 07.08.2020 ). Butler Gallery, previously located at Kilkenny Castle, has moved to Evans’ Home, on John’s Quay, in the centre of Kilkenny City. The move is part of a €6 million redevelopment project of the historic site and represents a significant new tourist offering for Ireland’s Southeast. The new museum, which expects to attract 76,000 visitors per annum, was officially launched by Malcolm Noonan T.D., Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, at a ceremony this morning.
The 10,000 sq ft building contains seven collection galleries which will be used to display the Butler Gallery Collection of 20th-century Irish art. In addition, there is a large exhibition space that will feature temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. The museum sits on the monastic site of St. John’s Priory and is surrounded by walled gardens which have been repurposed to accommodate an outdoor sculpture garden, a children’s garden, a wildflower garden and an exposition of the site's archaeology. A café with outdoor seating provides views over the grounds.
The project has been two years in construction and was developed by McCullough Mulvin Architects. Their previous projects include Printing House Square, Trinity College and St. Mary’s Medieval Mile Museum in Kilkenny. Anna O’Sullivan, Butler Gallery Director, believes that the new facility represents one of the finest exhibition spaces in Ireland:
“The historic site at Evans’ home has been re-imagined, with world-class facilities, as a space for contemporary art and learning. This is one of the most significant additions to Ireland’s cultural and heritage portfolio of the past decade. Apart from being a major free tourist attraction, for Ireland’s Southeast, the museum will become an important cultural hub for the people of Kilkenny.”
The inaugural temporary exhibition in the main gallery is by contemporary photographer Amelia Stein. The exhibition titled “The Bloods” is in association with the Kilkenny Arts Festival and features a series of 58 black and white portraits documenting members of the Irish defence forces. Also on display are rarely seen works by artists Paul Henry, Louis le Brocquy, Mainie Jellett and Mary Swanzy. A wing of the new museum is dedicated to the work of renowned Kilkenny artists Tony and Jane O’Malley.
Speaking this morning (06.08.2020) at the launch ceremony Malcolm NoonanT.D., Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, remarked:
"As a proud Kilkenny native, I am deeply honoured to have formally opened the new home of the Butler Gallery. Anna O Sullivan, her team and the gallery’s board have realised a vision of collaborative and inclusive arts through the careful conservation and intervention on this fine space, to ensure that the Butler Gallery will continue to flourish in the heart of Kilkenny. This space will shine bright at a time when light and hope are needed."
Evans' Home was a 19th Century almshouse established in trust by philanthropist Joseph Evans in 1816 for the purpose of providing a home for out-of-work domestic servants. Commenting on the restoration work Cathaoirleach, Cllr. Andrew McGuinness remarked:
“I am extremely proud of the standard of restoration projects that are provided in Kilkenny to visitors interested in understanding Kilkenny’s rich medieval history. The elected members of Kilkenny County Council can take additional pride in having supported and part-funded this project and to welcome this new addition to Ireland’s Medieval Mile.”
The project has been jointly funded by Kilkenny County Council, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and Fáilte Ireland. Speaking at the launch of the new facility Orla Carroll, Fáilte Ireland’s Head of Product Development, remarked:
“Innovation and investment are critical as the tourism industry recovers and rebuilds. As the National Tourism Development Authority, we invest in attractions that bring Ireland’s visual arts and contemporary culture to life in a way that is appealing to tourists. Butler’s Gallery exemplifies innovation and Fáilte Ireland is delighted to play its part in such a significant investment. By relocating the Gallery we believe this project will help spread the benefits of tourism further across the city, boosting business in Kilkenny and across Ireland’s Ancient East.”
Butler Gallery at Evans’ Home, John’s Quay, Kilkenny. Open Tue-Sun 10 am -5 pm (open bank holiday Mondays) Free Entry.