Raymond Keaveney joined the National Gallery of Ireland as curator in 1979. He was appointed assistant director in 1981 and appointed director in 1988. During his tenure he oversaw many structural interventions to the fabric of the complex on Merrion Square, most notably the complete refurbishment of the Beit Wing (1996); the construction and fit out of the Millennium Wing (2002). More recently he was responsible for steering the project of the Master Development Programme which involves both the restoration of the historic Dargan Wing (1864) and Milltown Wing (1903) together with plans to construct a new extension to the Gallery directly adjacent to the Beit and Millennium Wings. This ambitious project, which is being managed under the supervision of the Office of Public Works with Heneghan+Peng as lead architects, will not only deliver improved conditions in the elegant period accommodation familiar to regular visitors but will critically add much needed facilities for Conservation, Photography, Education and Library– services which are so essential to the operation of the institution.
Under Mr Keaveney’s direction, the Gallery expanded its collection and ancillary activities for the enjoyment of the public. Since the 1980s the collection has grown from some 12,500 to over 14,500 works of art today. The Gallery is the nation’s single most visited cultural attraction and owes its success not just to the prestige of its outstanding collection of Irish and European fine art but also to its exceptional cycle of exhibition programming, its energetic and inclusive education and outreach programmes as well as its comprehensive research facilities. Attendance figures increased from some 450,000 in the early 1990s to 800,000 in 2000.
In parallel with working to improve and extend the accommodation in which the collections are presented to the public, he worked energetically to foster contact with sister institutions internationally which has resulted in the strategic development of various services, most particularly in its exhibitions programme. The promotion of scholarly research has led to new insights into the collection and facilitated an enhanced appreciation of its significance among the public. The fruits of this commitment to research are most visible in the various exhibition catalogues published over the years as well as in the detailed text catalogues devoted to the different schools in the collection. The recent revamp of the Gallery’s website provided a further outlet for conveying the benefits of research to the public. In respect of exhibitions, a substantial element of programming involved the negotiating and mounting of exhibitions, not only in the Gallery but also in the USA, Japan, Australia, Britain and Europe. The most recent and critically acclaimed exhibition, ‘Gabriel Metsu: Rediscovered Master of the Dutch Golden Age’, was organised and curated by the National Gallery of Ireland and toured the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the National Gallery of Art, in Washington (2011).
Mr Keaveney sat on a number of committees, including the distinguished Bizot Group of Directors of Museums. In February 2007, he was presented with the order of ‘Chevalier des Arts et Lettres’ by the French Ministry of Culture.