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Contemporary Collection of Design & Craft

An exhibition that illustrates the best of Irish contemporary craft and design from both home and abroad.

The origins of the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) date to the foundation of its forerunner the Dublin Science and Art Museum in 1877. At that time and up until the early twentieth century collecting of contemporary art and design, both national and international was an important aspect of collections policy. Examples of contemporary art acquired by the museum during the last decades of the nineteenth century include glass by Émile Gallé and François-Eugène Rousseau of France and Louis Comfort Tiffany of the United States. In ceramics the acquisition of work by Zsolnay of Hungary was also made. This situation changed on Irish Independence in 1922, and from that decade on the policy of the museum turned almost exclusively to that of historical collecting of Irish decorative arts. In 2003 discussions began between the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) and the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI) regarding the possibility of establishing an annual purchase fund to enhance collecting by the museum of Irish contemporary design and craft. The following year the first purchases were made, and although jointly acquired will remain under the ownership and care of the National Museum of Ireland.

Glass sculpture, 'The Observatory' by Deirdre Feeney (N.M.I. Collection - DC:2013.1)

The significance of a national versus state collection is one of curatorship, conservation and posterity. A national cultural institution such as the National Museum holds in trust the portable heritage of a nation on behalf of its people. The works selected as part of the collection of contemporary design and craft illustrate the best of Irish makers both at home and abroad. Their work is seen as particularly significant for a variety of reasons, whether that is exceptional artistic quality, originality of technique or innovative interpretation of traditional disciplines. We are conscious that all work acquired for the national collection needs to be seen and appreciated by a wider audience in Ireland and internationally. For this reason a new online gallery of the collection has been created, which will be hosted on the DCCoI Portfolio http://portfolio.dccoi.ie/museum/ . Recently acquired examples of Irish design have been chosen for display in this room, including a newly commissioned piece, Circulus by the ceramic artist Isobel Egan.  

While not all of the work acquired is on permanent display at the National Museum, Collins Barracks, a good proportion is on exhibition throughout the following three areas of the museum: 

21st Century Irish Craft http://www.museum.ie/Decorative-Arts-History/Exhibitions/Current-Exhibitions/21st-Century-Irish-Craft

What’s In Store? http://www.museum.ie/Decorative-Arts-History/Exhibitions/Current-Exhibitions/What-s-In-Store

Reconstructed Rooms: Four Centuries of Furnishings: http://www.museum.ie/Decorative-Arts-History/Exhibitions/Current-Exhibitions/Reconstructed-Rooms-Four-Centuries-of-Furnishings/Contemporary-Designers

Isobel Egan

Isobel Egan


Zelouf & Bell

Zelouf & Bell

Koi Table