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Gallivanting in the Glucksman

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“Sad because people say they don’t understand – you don’t need to! Just enjoy!”

I like art galleries. I find them peaceful places to while away a couple of hours especially given our recent bout of crazy weather. Yet, one of the things that always frustrate me about visiting exhibitions is the constant search for meaning in the work and the inevitable frustration when it so often eludes me. As such, seeing this bright comment card proudly on display in the Glucksman Art Gallery during my recent visit there gave me some degree of hope.

The Glucksman Art Gallery, located a pleasant 25 minute walk from Hotel Isaacs (or jump on the hop-on, hop-off bus located right outside our city-centre hotel) is without a doubt one of Cork City’s best kept secrets. Nestled in the lower grounds of University College Cork, it is astonishing how many people manage to miss it on their visit to UCC. This hidden gem is perhaps one of the most accessible art galleries that one can visit. Named in honour of the banker and philanthropist Dr Lewis Glucksman, the building itself is as much part of the visual appeal than any work housed inside. Having won numerous architectural awards including Best Public Building in Ireland, careful attention was made in its design to fit in with the natural beauty of the university campus with the gallery being effectively raised on stilts giving the impression that one is almost floating down the river that runs beside it.

Best described as a contemporary art gallery, don’t let that put you off (lest contemporary art is not your thing). The gallery offers an eclectic variety of regularly changing exhibitions. Imagine paintings, photographs, sculptures and plastic arts spread out over three large, spacious, bright galleries. The main exhibit currently running, “Now Wakes the Sea” is a mixture of all things marine. Think of a gallery covered with debris washed in from the sea, think of flotsam and jetsam, think of a boat showing a video of a cruise down the River Lee along with a short movie entitled “He drowned in her eyes as she called him to follow” telling the haunting tale of a mermaid luring a sailor to his death. Of course, I wander aimlessly around staring stupidly at some of these displays with absolutely no clue what they are supposed to symbolise but didn’t Dali himself say that “all art is meaningless”?

Undoubtedly, in a world of chaos and non-stop noise, this gallery is the epitome of peaceful with a very minimalist feel. The works are spaced out, there is room to think and reflect. There is a real sense of community in the air with works from the gallery’s extensive outreach programmes proudly on display in the foyer. Take the time to have a coffee in their Riverside Café or allow yourself to wander around its quirky gift-shop with its unusual selection of gifts (my favourite being a toilet log book where guests to your bathroom can sign their name).

Yes, Oscar Wilde did say that “all art is quite useless” but there are certainly more useless ways to while away an hour than in this haven of tranquillity.

  • The Glucksman Art Gallery is open Tuesday–Saturday 10am–5pm, Sunday 2–5pm. Closed Mondays. Admission is free.
  • The Gallery’s annual Craft + Design Fair takes place Friday 10 November 1-7pm, Saturday 11 November 10-6, Sunday 12 November 11-6. Admission Charge: €5 supports the gallery education programmes.
  • Continue your appreciation of all things artful with an exquisite meal at our award-winning Greenes Restaurant where residents of our city-centre boutique hotel receive a 15% discount off their food bill.
  • Alternatively, watch one of our mixologists create an entirely different work-of-art with a uniquely-crafted cocktail at the best cocktail bar in Ireland (Sky Bar Awards) Cask.

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