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There are more than 180 artworks from the Arts Council Collection currently on display in 14 healthcare settings across the Republic of Ireland. Ben Mulligan and Ann O'Connor from the Arts Council provide insights into the lending and selection process, and the impact this artwork can have on healthcare communities.

Your Collection: The Arts Council Collection in Healthcare Settings

Operating as a ‘museum without walls’ the Arts Council Collection is primarily a lending collection. It was established in 1962, and from the outset the Arts Council agreed to purchase excellent work from living Irish artists at a critical stage in their career. New purchases are made by an acquisitions committee who review the work of artists on a regular basis before agreeing which works should become part of the collection.

The collection is guided by its mission statement: ‘The Arts Council’s collection supports artists’ and public engagement with the arts. It does this by purchasing excellent contemporary work to be enjoyed and valued through display and programmes delivered directly and with partners. Through the collection, the Arts Council also acts as a custodian and carer of great art on behalf of the people of Ireland.’

We are delighted to team up with artsandhealth.ie and our arts and health colleagues across the country, to highlight some of the work from the Arts Council Collection that can be seen in healthcare settings.

There are more than 180 artworks from the Arts Council Collection hanging in 14 healthcare settings across the country by artists including Brian Bourke, Michael Cullen, Anne Madden, Elizabeth Magill, Norah McGuiness, and Tony O’Malley amongst others. The range of art on display includes paintings, prints, photographs, drawings and sculptures. These works of art feature a variety of subjects from abstract to historical, from landscapes to portraits, representing all aspects of Irish life over the past 70 years.

Image shown: Michael Cullen, Self Portrait with Curtains, 1984. Oil on canvas, 118 x 130cm. Collection of the Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon. Currently on display at University Hospital Waterford.
Image shown: Michael Cullen, Self Portrait with Curtains, 1984. Oil on canvas, 118 x 130cm. Collection of the Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon. Currently on display at University Hospital Waterford.

Healthcare settings can borrow artworks from the Arts Council Collection as long as they meet some minimum standards around public access, security and environmental conditions. We try to make the process as simple as possible. If you would like to borrow artwork, you can begin by contacting us (details at bottom of page) and one of the collection team will be appointed your liaison.

The first stage is normally a site visit to explore areas of your building where you would like artwork and to discuss more about the process – these areas need to be publicly accessible e.g. reception areas, hallways, waiting rooms, cafes. We then send you on a list of suitable artworks for you and your art committee (existing or new) to choose from. There is no fee for borrowing work from the Collection, however there are costs for the borrower such as the transport and hanging of the art, as well as confirming insurance cover for the artworks on loan. Artworks are lent for an initial two-year period, which can be extended by mutual consent.

If your healthcare setting does not have an art committee, we suggest that one is formed comprising of key stakeholders (for example, patient and staff representatives, colleagues from estates and marketing/communications, as well as one or two external members maybe local artist or local authority arts officer). It is important that the selection of works is made by a group of individuals who are working together to improve the healthcare environment through the display of the work.

When lending works of art to a healthcare setting, we understand that settings may have policies in place with regard to infection control and other areas that the work on loan needs to align with. As a public collection we want works of art to be appreciated by as many people as possible, but we are cognisant also that the work needs to appeal to a broad and diverse audience of patients, staff, visitors and other users.


Elizabeth Magill, Parlous Land (Deer Park Clearing), 2006. Lithograph (21/45), 59 x 84 cm. Collection of the Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon. Currently on display at University Hospital Waterford.

The experience of healthcare settings so far highlights that artwork can soften and enhance the clinical environment for patients, visitors and staff; assist with way finding by providing distinctive landmarks; provide comfort and distraction, stir curiosity and enhance individual’s overall sense of health and wellbeing.

From an Arts Council perspective, the display of work in healthcare settings also presents a great opportunity for artists to engage with new audiences in new ways and, in particular, with people that may find the arts more difficult to access due to the challenges and complexities of ill health.

As well as being in healthcare settings, work from the Arts Council Collection can also be seen in a range of other public buildings such as schools, universities and libraries throughout Ireland. You can view work from the Arts Council Collection via our website and Instagram, as well as viewing special online features at Showcasing the Collection.

To find out more about what’s involved in borrowing work from the Arts Council Collection, please contact collection@artscouncil.ie  for more information.

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Ben Mulligan, Head of Visual Arts and the Arts Council Collection
Ann O’Connor, Head of Arts Participation, including the area of Arts and Health


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Timothy Booth, Cross Section from a Rudge, 1969. Mixed media, 110 x 80cm. Collection of the Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon. Currently on display at MISA, St James's Hospital.

Artwork can soften and enhance the clinical environment for patients, visitors and staff; assist with way finding by providing distinctive landmarks; provide comfort and distraction; stir curiosity and enhance the individual's overall sense of health and wellbeing.


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