The National Museum of Ireland has acquired a selection of work by the award-winning glass artist Alison Lowry for its permanent collection.
The exquisite work formed part of the Alison Lowry: (A) Dressing Our Hidden Truths exhibition, which is a moving artistic response to the experiences of many women within Magdalene Laundries, Mother & Baby Homes and Industrial Schools.
The work has been on display at the NMI - Decorative Arts and History since March 2019 and also explores experiences of the ongoing hidden truths of rape culture, consent and domestic violence.
Features include suspended sand-cast pâte de verre christening robes spread across two rooms serving as a commentary on the Tuam Mother and Baby Home revelations, and audio testimony and poetry from those who experienced the industrial school system and Magdalene Laundries.
Alison Lowry: (A) Dressing our Hidden Truths provoked a strong public reaction when it opened and has subsequently remained one of the most visited exhibitions within the Museum. There is no other glass artist in Europe, of the standing of Alison Lowry, who so pointedly and effectively comments through her work, with such strong political, social and emotional overtones. The exhibition was recognised with a prestigious honourable mention at the Global Fine Arts Awards in 2020.
The acquisition forms part of the Museum’s Contemporary Collecting Strategy, given the significance of the exhibition for different segments of Irish society and the exceptionally high quality of the objects. Having already previously acquired a signature object in the exhibition – A New Skin – the NMI will now be able to tour the exhibition nationally, and internationally, and it is planned that the artwork will ultimately form part of the 20th Century History of Ireland Galleries at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks, Dublin 7, which are scheduled to open in 2023.
Welcoming the acquisition, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD said:
The issues that Alison Lowry touches on in this exhibition are a part of our history and culture that we are not proud of and, for that reason, it is all the more important that we never forget them. I am glad that they will now take a deserved place in the permanent collection of our national museum.
Director of the National Museum of Ireland, Lynn Scarff, said:
I think it is so important as a national cultural institution that we create spaces to reflect on our recent history and also to reflect on traumatic aspects of our past, and the inclusion of this exhibition in our permanent collections demonstrates that.”
Head of Collections and Learning and curator of the Alison Lowry: (A)Dressing our Hidden Truths exhibition, Dr Audrey Whitty, said:
A function of the National Museum of Ireland is to preserve and present the history of Ireland and a vast span of time in the 20th century involved the Magdalene Laundry system. Alison’s work is a very profound and moving tribute to those women, and indeed to their children, and it is fitting that it will now remain within our national collection for generations to come to bear witness to, and learn from.”