National Gallery of Ireland announces 2021 exhibition programme

A man in a dark overcoat with his hands in his pockets, wearing a cap. In the background, the sea.
Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957), Pilot Sligo River. © The Estate of Jack B. Yeats, DACS London, IVARO Dublin, 2020
Private Collection. Image courtesy of

A landmark exhibition of paintings by Jack B. Yeats and a celebration of new work in the national collection form just part of a dynamic line-up of shows at the National Gallery of Ireland in 2021.

There’s more to discover too, including sixteenth-century Italian paintings, an exhibition created by young people, prints and drawings spanning the history of modern art, and the return of the Zurich Portrait Prizes.

The first major exhibition of the year displays a decade of new works in the national collection on the walls of the Beit Wing. New Acquisitions 2011-2020 builds upon the legacy of Taking Stock: New Acquisitions 2000-2010 shown a decade earlier, in 2010. Many new acquisitions on display for the first time – including works by Gerard Seghers, Dorothy Cross, and Don McCullin – tell the story of the new terrain created by acquisitions to the national collection as it is shaped during months of discussion, consideration, proposal and post-acquisition preparation for display. This exhibition opens in the Beit Wing on 13 March 2021.

Later in 2021, the National Gallery of Ireland celebrates the work of one of Ireland’s pre-eminent  artists, in an exhibition of works drawn from public and private collections in Ireland and abroad. Jack B. Yeats: Painting & Memory explores the role of memory in Yeats’ life and work. Memories of childhood in Sligo, observations of humanity and his reflections on life and loss feature in many of Yeats’ oil paintings. Opening in the Beit Wing on 4 September 2021, this exhibition is happily supported by Key Capital.

For the 120th time, the Gallery’s collection of much-loved watercolours by J.M.W. Turner will be on display the month of January. In 2021, visitors will have a chance to see a selection of drawings by Francis Place alongside Turner’s works. The English artist’s views are the earliest known depictions of Drogheda, Dublin, Kilkenny and Waterford in the national collection. Turner & Place: Landscapes in Light and Detail opens in the Print Gallery on 1 January 2021.

Spanning almost 100 years of modern art, the British Museum touring exhibition Living with Art: Picasso to Celmins showcases highlights from the collection of renowned film critic Alexander Walker (1930-2003), which he bequeathed to the British Museum. More than 30 prints and drawings by artists including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Lucian Freud and Bridget Riley, will be on display in the Print Gallery from 13 February 2021.

Following a decade of careful restoration by the Gallery, eight sixteenth-century Italian paintings depicting the Madonna and her infant child with Saint John the Baptist, will be on display in Christ & His Cousin: Renaissance Rediscoveries. This exhibition opens in the Hugh Lane Room on 29 May 2021.

For the very first time, a group of young people will co-curate an exhibition at the National Gallery of Ireland in 2021. As part of Apollo Project, the Gallery’s dedicated programme for young people, Apollo Project Young Curators’ Exhibition will bring fresh relevance to historic artworks. Opening in the Hugh Lane Room on 16 October 2021.

The ever-popular Zurich Portrait Prize will return in 2021, alongside the Zurich Young Portrait Prize for young people under the age of 18. Both exhibitions will be displayed in the Portrait Gallery from 13 November 2021. The Gallery is delighted to announce that Zurich Insurance plc will continue their sponsorship of the Zurich Portrait Prize and Zurich Young Portrait Prize for a further three years to 2023. This follows a successful partnership which has included the launch of the Zurich Young Portrait Prize, and the expansion of the exhibitions as they travelled outside Dublin for the first time in 2020, to Crawford Art Gallery in Cork.

Exhibitions at the Gallery in 2021 will be complemented by an inclusive education, learning and engagement programme. Alongside this, a diverse year-round public programme will be dedicated to exploring the collection, the building and the archive. Both programmes will take place online with digital programming, offsite through carefully considered outreach activities, and onsite too. The Gallery remains ever mindful of the challenges presented by the pandemic and is responsive to all guidelines. It will continue to create meaningful opportunities for all audiences to learn through and about art, to support contemporary practitioners, and to embrace the transformative, affirmative power of the arts.

Sean Rainbird, Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, said, “In these challenging times for cultural institutions, we are delighted to be able to bring an exciting series of exhibitions to our visitors in 2021. We hope that the Irish public will find inspiration in our new programme: from the wonderful paintings of Jack B. Yeats to a decade of new works in the national collection, there are endless opportunities for discovery at the National Gallery of Ireland next year.”


Media contact:
Kate O’Leary, Communications, National Gallery of Ireland [email protected] / 087 334 1587

Notes to Editor:
•    Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, Sean Rainbird, is available for interview
•    Images are available on request

Exhibition listings:
Turner & Place: Landscapes in Light and Detail   
Print Gallery | Curator: Niamh MacNally | Free admission
1 – 31 January 2021

A British Museum touring exhibition Living with Art: Picasso to Celmins
Print Gallery | Curator: Anne Hodge | Free admission
13 February – 30 May 2021 
Generously supported by the Dorset Foundation in memory of Harry M Weinrebe.

New Acquisitions 2011-2020
Rooms 6-10 | Works selected by Sean Rainbird | Curators: Janet McLean & Niamh MacNally | Ticketed
13 March – 2 August 2021

Christ & His Cousin: Renaissance Rediscoveries   
Hugh Lane Room | Curator: Dr Aoife Brady | Free admission
29 May – 3 October 2021    

Jack B. Yeats: Painting & Memory 
Rooms 6-10 | Curators: Dr Brendan Rooney & Donal Maguire | Ticketed
4 September 2021 – 6 February 2022
Happily supported by Key Capital.

Apollo Project Young Curators’ exhibition
Hugh Lane Room | Curators: Apollo Project Young Curators | Free admission
16 October 2021 – 16 January 2022
The Apollo Fellowship is made possible through the generous support of the Apollo Foundation.

Zurich Portrait Prize 2021
Room 23 | Free admission
13 November 2021 – 27 March 2022

Zurich Young Portrait Prize 2021
Room 23 | Free admission
13 November 2021 – 27 March 2022

National Gallery at Home:
For those who are unable to visit the National Gallery of Ireland at the moment, there are many ways to engage with the national collection online. National Gallery at Home includes videos, Mindfulness and Art, and at-home activities connected to the national collection. Virtual tours of iconic spaces such as the Shaw Room and the Grand Gallery, as well as exhibitions Irish Horse and Murillo: The Prodigal Son Restored, can also be explored from home.

The British Museum’s National Programmes:
The British Museum has a national presence, working with hundreds of partner organisations across the UK each year through its wide-ranging National Programmes activity. This includes single-object Spotlight Loan tours, touring exhibitions, Partnership Galleries, as well as both short-term and long-term loans, with the lead support of the Dorset Foundation in memory of Harry M Weinrebe. In 2019/20, nearly 2,800 objects were loaned to 105 venues in the UK, reaching 10 million people outside London. National Programmes also facilitates knowledge exchange programmes and trainee schemes to help young people to break into the museum profession. The Museum will continue to develop partnerships across the UK as part of its commitment to sharing the collection as widely as possible.