The front of the Merrion Square gallery building. © National Gallery of Ireland.
© National Gallery of Ireland. Credit

Press release 12/6/2017-2

On Thursday 15 June the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin reopens to the public following a period of extensive refurbishment and modernisation of its historic wings on Merrion Square. 

The beautifully transformed spaces in the Dargan and Milltown Wings will open with an entirely new presentation of the celebrated permanent collection featuring master paintings by Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Ruisdael, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Goya, Monet, Gris and Picasso. The Gallery will also display its prestigious collection of Irish art with works by Daniel Maclise, Roderic O’Conor, John Lavery, William Orpen, Seán Keating, Gerard Dillon, Evie Hone, Norah McGuinness, Jack B. Yeats, Louis le Brocquy and William Scott. 

Later the same week, the Gallery will present the highly anticipated exhibition, Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry, from Saturday 17 June. Advance ticket booking is now open - 

This multimillion-euro refurbishment project has been carried out by the Office of Public Works’ Project Management Services, with architects Heneghan Peng as the Design Team Leaders. The project is co-funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the National Gallery of Ireland, and the Office of Public Works.

Central to the modernisation work has been the construction of a state-of-the-art underground energy centre housing vital services for the entire Gallery. Original nineteenth-century architectural features and spaces are revealed and majestic windows now open onto a spacious light-filled courtyard created by Heneghen Peng. This new courtyard dramatically enhances visitors’ orientation between the historic Dargan and Milltown wings. It is also the site for a dramatic sculpture, Magnus Modus, by Joseph Walsh, commissioned by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the National Gallery of Ireland under the Per Cent for Art Scheme.

The period of refurbishment also allowed for an extensive survey of the Gallery’s permanent collection. More than 450 works have undergone conservation and research. The most spectacular of these is Daniel Maclise’s The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife (1854), which, after an ambitious conservation and research project, supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, has been preserved for future generations and returned to the elegant surrounds of the Shaw Room in the Dargan Wing.

Sean Rainbird, Director of the National Gallery of Ireland says:

“We are delighted to welcome back all our visitors to enjoy the Gallery’s beautifully restored buildings on Merrion Square. We anticipate many visitors from Ireland and abroad to view our new presentation of the permanent collection and attend our exciting programme of exhibitions and public events. The refurbishment project has been a great success. We kept our doors open to the public throughout the lifetime of this project, and, remarkably, with over 80% of its galleries closed during that period, we attracted attendances of over 700,000 annually. We are indebted to our visitors for their patience and support throughout, to the Office of Public Works and design team, led by Heneghan Peng, and our parent Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. This project begins a vibrant new chapter in the Gallery’s future.”

The refurbished galleries on Merrion Square display over 650 works of art from the permanent collection presented broadly chronologically. The Irish collections are prominent at ground level with European art on the upper level. The grand scale of the Shaw Room at entry level and monumental galleries in the Dargan and Milltown wings give displays a renewed sense of space and grandeur. The Gallery now breathes again as a place to explore and enjoy for all visitors and supporters.



Reopening of the National Gallery of Ireland: The National Gallery of Ireland reopens to the public on Thursday 15 June 2017. Admission is free to the permanent collection. #inspirethenation #NationalGalleryIRL

Opening Exhibition: Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry. 17 June – 17 September 2017. Proudly Supported by Zurich Insurance plc, Exhibition Partner. Tickets €15 & €10 concessions. Free for Friends of NGI. Ticket Booking: . Accompanying catalogue is published by YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS in association with the National Gallery of Ireland. #VermeerDublin

National Gallery of Ireland: Established in 1854 by an Act of Parliament, and opened to the public in 1864, the National Gallery of Ireland is one of Europe’s earliest public art galleries. It houses a collection of over 16,300 works of art comprising European and Irish fine art spanning the early Renaissance to the present day as well as extensive library and archive collections.  The Gallery’s most prominent holdings relate to the Irish collection with works by Nathaniel Hone, Thomas Roberts, Daniel Maclise, Roderic O’Conor, John Lavery, William Orpen, Mainie Jellett, Mary Swanzy Paul Henry and Jack B. Yeats. The collection also spans the history of Western art, from Renaissance masters such as Fra Angelico and Paolo Uccello to Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso of the modern era. Among the highlights are Spanish works by Velázquez, Murillo and Goya, Italian masterpieces by Titian, Caravaggio and Guercino, French paintings by Poussin, Chardin and Bonnard, Dutch masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh, and works by eminent British artists including Hogarth, Gainsborough and Reynolds. The Gallery is also home to the National Portrait Collection and research collections and facilities such as the Denis Mahon Library & Archive, the Yeats Archive and the Centre for the Study of Irish Art. 

About the Refurbishment Project: The National Gallery of Ireland occupies a series of historic buildings on Merrion Square that were constructed over a period of 150 years and have been undergoing periodic renovations. In 2007, Heneghan Peng architects were commissioned by the Office of Public Works to assess and update the development control plan and carry out the design of the refurbishment works to the historic buildings and the new facilities.

Project costs

Phase 1: Dargan Wing Roof. In March 2011, a major restoration programme at the Gallery commenced with the project to replace the Dargan wing roof undertaken by main contractor, PJ Hegarty & Sons. This element of the project was completed in August 2012.  The tender price for these construction works was €2.093m and final account on completion with the Main Contractor at €2.135m.

Phase 2 + 3: Milltown Wing Roof, fabric of Milltown and Dargan Wings, Energy Centre. In January 2014, works relating to the refurbishment of the Gallery’s historic wings, including the replacement of the Milltown wing roof commenced, undertaken by main contractor John Paul Construction and based on a tender price of €25.806m. These works were completed in December 2016 but the final cost of works will not be established until the final account has been completed with the Main Contractor. This project included the repair and restoration of the fabric of the Dargan and Milltown wings, the creation of a new Courtyard (infill of the voids between the wings) and the installation of 21st century climate, heating, fire suppression and lighting systems amongst other things.  The area space of refurbished historic wings is 7,500m2 which includes the underground energy centre.

Project Funders: Co-funded project by Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the National Gallery of Ireland, and the Office of Public Works. 

Project Team: Office of Public Works Project Management Services, with Heneghan Peng as appointed architects

Main Contractors: Phase 1 (2011-2012): PJ Hegarty & Sons (repair of Dargan Wing Roof); Phase 2 + 3 (2014-2016): John Paul Construction (repair of Milltown Wing Roof, full refurbishment of fabric of Dargan and Milltown Wings, plus complete upgrade and modernisation and construction of energy centre)


National Gallery of Ireland  - DEVELOPMENT HISTORY

The Gallery complex consists of four interconnected buildings:

Dargan Wing: Designed by Francis Fowke and inaugurated in 1864, this constitutes the earliest element in the complex. Its exterior design was determined by the requirement to mirror Francis Clarendon's elegant Natural History Museum of 1856 located directly across Leinster Lawn. The wing was named in honour of William Dargan (1799-1867), the great Irish railway magnate, who formed a ‘Dargan Committee’ to promote the establishment of a National Gallery in Dublin. A statue of Dargan stands in the front lawn of the Gallery on Merrion Square. One of the most beautiful spaces in the Dargan wing is the Shaw Room, named after George Bernard Shaw who bequeathed one third of his royalties to the National Gallery of Ireland, which, he documented as being of significant influence throughout his childhood.

Milltown Wing: Based on designs by Thomas Manley Deane, the project, which was inaugurated in 1903, was delivered by his son Thomas Newham Deane who inherited the practice from his father. The wing is named in recognition of the Countess of Milltown who presented 200 works of art comprising paintings, silver, furniture and books to the National Gallery of Ireland from her house at Russborough, Co. Wicklow (1902). Formally gifted in July, the collection arrived in 1906.

Beit Wing: Based on designs by Frank du Berry, Senior Architect at the OPW this modern addition provided not only additional galleries but also incorporated a library, lecture theatre and restaurant together with the provision of a conservation studio. It was refurbished in the 1990s by the Office of Public Works (OPW). Originally called the Modern wing, then the North wing, it was named the Beit wing in honour of the munificent gift to the Gallery (1987) of seventeen masterpieces by Sir Alfred and Lady Beit, which included works by Vermeer, Goya, Murillo, Ruisdael, Hobbema, and Velazquez. 

Millennium Wing: opened in January 2002, this wing was designed by the London-based practice, Benson & Forsyth, who were awarded the commission following an international competition. The Portland stone clad façade of this building gives directly onto Clare Street, a busy thoroughfare directly opposite Trinity College, and contrasts with the reserved elegance of the original entrance on Merrion Square.


National Gallery of Ireland - FUTURE PLANS

New Wing: The conclusion of the refurbishment of the historic wings on Merrion Square will help the National Gallery of Ireland create the necessary momentum to realise the full potential of the Master Development Plan (MDP). The Beit wing, at the end of its design life, will be remodelled and extended to create a full height public route through the buildings, new galleries and new public amenities. It will provide public access to Education, Library and Archives facilities at the heart of the institution, as well as a purpose-built conservation block to assist in the care of the Gallery’s collection. The new wing will add 6,500m2 to the existing gallery spaces.


National Gallery of Ireland - FACT SHEET


  • The Gallery houses over 16,300 works of art, comprising paintings, works on paper, sculpture, frames and objets d’art
  • Over 3,800 works of art were moved about the Gallery (in most cases several times) in preparation for the refurbishment project.
  • Over 650 works are on display as part of the new presentation of the collection

Acquisitions: Over 150 works of art have been acquired by the Gallery since it closed for refurbishment (2011-2017). During this period the Gallery has acquired significant works by Irish and European artists, including works by William Crozier, Michael Farrell, Marten de Vos and Gerard Seghers, Rubens and David Teniers. Many will be included as part of the new collection display.

Exhibitions: The Gallery has presented some 50 (mainly small) exhibitions and displays at its venue since it closed for refurbishment in 2011. Highlights include Lines of Vision: Irish Writers at the National Gallery of Ireland (2014); Sean Scully at the National Gallery of Ireland (2015); Leonardo da Vinci: Ten Drawings from the Royal Collection (2016); Creating History: Stories of Ireland in Art (2016); Beyond Caravaggio (2017).

Conservation: A total of 1446 works in the collection were surveyed by the Conservation Department during the course of the refurbishment period (2011-2016). Over 450 paintings and sculpture were brought into Conservation studio for examination and treatments. In addition, paper conservators treated some 570 works on paper.

Loans: The Gallery lends numerous works from its collections to venues in Ireland and abroad. In 2015 during the height of the refurbishment project, the Gallery organised a large loan exhibition, ‘Von Poussin bis Monet. Die Farben Frankreichs’ , which included a collection of 56 mainly French seventeenth to early twentieth-century paintings and drawings, shown at The Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen, 22 March – 6 September 2015, and at the Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg, 10 October 2015 – 17 January 2016.


Re-opening Historic Wings - The Launch 2017

Reopening of the Gallery’s refurbished historic wings to the public, and launch of new brand across all platforms, a new website and expansive publications on the new collection display.

New Presentation of the Collection: The availability of these fine spaces in the historic wings, namely the Dargan and Milltown wings, has been a great opportunity for the director and curators to reimagine the permanent display of the collection. The collection is now presented chronologically rather than geographically on each floor. Works relating to Ireland are hung on the ground floor. Art from the broader European collections are displayed on the upper floor. An integral part of Gallery is the National Portrait Collection which shows works of eminent Irishmen (Seamus Heaney, TK Whitaker, Brian Friel) and Irishwomen (Mary Robinson, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy) who have contributed to the social, historic, cultural and political life of the country. Most recent acquisitions include portraits of Tony award winning theatre director, Garry Hynes by Vera Klute  a portrait of Graham Norton by Gareth Reid, commissioned as part of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2016, and a portrait of Henry Shefflin by Gerry Davis, commissioned as part of the Hennessy Portrait Prize 2016.

Upcoming Exhibitions: There are an extraordinary number of exhibitions to enjoy in this landmark year for the Gallery: 

  • Margaret Clarke (1864-1961): An Independent Spirit (until 20 Aug. 2017)
  • Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry (17 June-17 Sept. 2017). 
  • Käthe Kollwitz: Life, Death and War (6 Sept. – 10 Dec. 2017)
  • Frederic William Burton (23 October 2017 – 14 Jan 2018)
  • Aftermath: The War Landscapes of William Orpen (11 Nov 2017 – 11 Feb 2018


Publications: The Gallery has published and researched the collection during the lifetime of the project. New publications on the collection include ‘An Essential Guide’ (€20.00pb) and ‘Highlights of the Collection’ (€9.95pb). Both are available to purchase in the Gallery Shop and online via the new e-commerce site 

Publishing & Digital Media: Over 14,500 images were produced and released to the collection online. This is an ongoing project for the continuously improving NGI website 

Public Engagement + Education Programmes: The Gallery’s exhibitions and education activities will complement the new display of the permanent collection. Supported by an expanded digital presence, they will together form a considerable attraction to an anticipated increased number of visitors from Ireland and abroad.

Rebranding: creating a new brand identity for the Gallery, across all platforms, onsite and online, has been an important component in the plans for the reopening, together with a redeveloped website, which will be launched to coincide with the reopening of the Gallery in June. 


10 reasons to visit

1. It's free!

A visit to the National Gallery of Ireland is free. Since 1854, when it opened its doors for the first time, the National Gallery of Ireland has always believed that the National Collection is the nation’s collection and as such is available for your pleasure almost all year round. For 361 days a year the National Gallery of Ireland will inspire, delight and entertain you with tours, workshops, lectures and concerts and all for free.

2. Family fun

Is your child a tiny Tintoretto, a mini Monet or a pint-sized Picasso? If so grab an ‘art backpack’ or a children’s audio guide and explore and create at the National Gallery! Come along to our free workshops or join one of our holiday and mid-term courses for children and young teenagers. Check out our What’s On calendar for information on upcoming events or follow the National Gallery of Ireland through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

3. Get creative

It’s not all about the children. Adults and teens are encouraged to pick up a pencil and learn or improve your drawing skills with artist-led workshops that take place in blocks throughout the year. Have you ever wanted to have your artwork hanging on the walls of the National Gallery? Well now you can (sort of). Our permanent ‘Creative Space’ has all the materials you need to make your masterpiece and afterwards hang it in the space for all to admire! Please see our Education Programme for information on all events.

4. Learning and thinking

What, when, why and how? Have you ever wondered about the story behind a painting? Is there a reason that it looks that way? Who’s who in the picture? Take a free tour of gallery highlights or join a themed tour to gain a deeper insight into your new favourite works of art. Or, give the gift of art to friends and family with a personalised private tour of the gallery. One of our expert guides can tailor your visit to match your interests. Be treated as a V.I.P. at the N.G.I!

5. Peaceful, quiet contemplation

Escape from the city and take some time for yourself. Enjoying great art is good for the soul and a great gallery is good for a stroll. Take time out from your day and enjoy one painting or many. Park yourself on a bench or ruminate in a room: it’s your gallery!

6. Explore the Gallery’s Library and research services

Learn more about your favourite artist, movement or artwork with the National Gallery of Ireland Library and Research services. Enjoy the peaceful surroundings of our Fine Art Library, Centre for the Study of Irish Art or the Denis Mahon Reading Room. Expert insight is at hand with the National Gallery of Ireland staff of Librarians and Archivists who can offer their advice and expertise. Visitors have access to our immense collection of journals, online databases, books, catalogues, archival material and rare books. This service is free and available Monday- Friday, 10am-5pm. For more information, please contact [email protected] or call (01) 663 3546. 

7.  Enjoy lunch

Fancy a cappuccino after the Caravaggio? A quiche after the Claude Lorrain? Or how about a Chardonnay after the Chardin? A cup of tea and a slice of cake is a fine art in the Wintergarden Cafe, a unique architectural space that is part 18th century Georgian townhouse and part 19th century ballroom.

8. Shop

Everybody loves a souvenir of a great day out or an adventure. The gallery shop provides prints and postcards of your favourite paintings, bookmarks and the books to put them in as well as all the pens, pencils and pads for new found artistic expression. The shop is keen to support Irish craft and design and gives space to ceramics, jewellery and textiles by local and national makers. 

9.  Listen and enjoy

The Gallery boasts a rich and varied programme of musical events throughout the year. From piano recitals to choral and orchestral performances each is enhanced by the magnificent surroundings of the gallery spaces such as the Shaw Room, Millennium Wing or the Atrium. 

10. Community 

Community Engagement Projects are run in partnership with a variety of organisations every year. Working with people at every stage in life, these projects are either wholly Gallery funded or partially funded with the partner organisation. Projects take place both in the Gallery, working with the permanent collection and current exhibitions, as well as in the wider community. If you would like to find out more about Community Engagement at the National Gallery of Ireland,  contact us at [email protected]e