Raymond Keaveney retires from NGI

Raymond Keaveney Director NGI. Photo © Lensmen


Raymond Keaveney retires after 23 years as director of the National Gallery of Ireland

-New director of National Gallery to take up his post in mid-April 2012-

Outgoing director of the National Gallery of Ireland, Raymond Keaveney retires (11 January 2012), after 33 years in office and 23 years as director of the National Gallery of Ireland. The recently appointed director of the Gallery, Sean Rainbird, will take up his post in mid-April. 

Mr 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 has overseen 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 has been 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.

Thanking the Minister for Arts, Jimmy Deenihan TD and his Department for their support over the years, Mr Keaveney said the Gallery now has a golden opportunity to transform its place in Irish cultural life and deliver on its potential and establish its credentials as one of the most historic and representative collections by the great masters as well as being the premier showcase for the display of Irish art. He noted that the planned extension designed by Heneghan+Peng would build on the extraordinary contribution of Francis Fowke and Thomas Manley Deane who were responsible for the Dargan and Milltown Wings, both iconic museum buildings of their time. The proposed addition, which will be faced in Wicklow granite and have its most visible presence as an extension of the existing façade on Merrion Square West, would see the Gallery’s space increase from 16,000sqm to 23,000sqm.

He paid tribute to his colleagues at the Gallery and said: “What has been achieved during my period of stewardship could only have been realised with the support of knowledgeable and incredibly hard-working colleagues who have done an outstanding job and delivered a wonderful service to the public.”

He acknowledged the generosity of individual and corporate benefactors to the Gallery’s development over the past 30 years, most notably Sir Alfred and Lady Clementine Beit, Anne and Michael Yeats, Martin and Carmel Naughton, Lochlann and Brenda Quinn, and Sir Denis Mahon. The introduction of the tax incentive, S1003 (1997 Consolidation Taxes Act) benefited the institution enormously during the last decade in particular with the gift of masterpieces by Gerrit van Honthorst, Johann Zoffany, Antonio Canova, Roderic O’Conor, Harry Clarke, John Lavery, Louis le Brocquy and Jack B. Yeats. Acquisitions to the collection over the past decade were celebrated with the exhibition Taking Stock: Acquisitions 2000-2010.

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.

The Board of Governors and Guardians of the National Gallery of Ireland paid tribute to Mr Keaveney’s great work and devotion to the Gallery during a long career.

Raymond Keaveney congratulated Sean Rainbird on his appointment and wished him success in promoting the future development of the Gallery.

Sean Rainbird, who has been director of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart from 2006, will become the 14th director of the National Gallery of Ireland. He is expected to take up his post from 18 April 2012. Mr Rainbird said: “I would like to congratulate Mr Keaveney on his long and distinguished directorship, and I look forward to working in this great institution, building upon the expertise and experience of the Gallery's excellent staff and many supporters.”