Finders and Keepers – inside the secret store of the State Art Collection

Sixteen thousand artworks, that’s a lot of art!  But that’s roughly the number of works in the State Art Collection, under the care of the Office of Public Works (OPW) in Ireland. Now, can you imagine trying to choose your favourite pieces out of all that?  A challenge, I would say, but what a thrill!

photo of group of curators at Dún Laoghaire Lexicon
the curators pause for a quick photo

A friend of mine, artist and curator Claire Halpin has been working on just such a project for the last year. In partnership with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (dlr) and the OPW, she gathered together a group of older people to select and curate an exhibition of works from the collection to show in the dlr Lexicon Municipal Gallery from November through to January 2016.

The show was called “Finders and Keepers”. I was at the official opening last week and my, there was a great buzz! When you think of it, there was work by 41 different artists and there were 14 curators involved along with Claire. I’ll borrow a quote from the catalogue, by Declan O’Brien, one of the curators …

Being part of the project was a great learning experience, finding out how an exhibition is put together, visiting the OPW to view the works of art and making our selections, whittling down those chosen to eventually end up with this selection. When I first came to the project, I was wondering: “What am I doing here?” Soon it became clear that what we had in common was a love of art and, meeting with the group each week to discuss what we liked or didn’t like turned out to be great fun. A wonderful experience that I would not hesitate to do again.

Now that sounds like a good result to me. Fair play to all concerned!  But I just had to include the image below which was selected for the current show. It’s a Giclée print on Fabriano paper, one of the prints from The Palimpsest/ Rianú Project. It was the end result of a long collaborative process between myself and seven other artists. We each worked on the same pieces, each of us working in turn over the other artists’ work. This piece was started by Kate Murphy and eventually finished by – yours truly. The OPW bought the complete set of prints when we had the exhibition at the Pearse Museum last year. More about that project at:

"Mise agus Tusa/ Me and You" from the Palimpsest /Rianú Project
“Mise agus Tusa/ Me and You” from the Palimpsest /Rianú Project

But the OPW has purchased my work on various other occasions down through the years. They bought one of the paintings from my recent show “Diaspora” at the Olivier Cornet Gallery in Dublin. Their support for artists is really significant and, let me tell you,   it is very much appreciated.

Your comments are always welcome. Click on the little brown speech bubble up at the top right of this post and put your comment there. Thanks again, eoin



  1. Great, innovative projects; I was struck by “Mise agus Tusa”; both images, particularly the one on the right, reminded me of Lady Frieda Harris’ artwork for Aleister Crowley’s tarot deck, except more advanced. Fantastic stuff. Thanks.


  2. A great way to give more visibility to a huge collection owned by the Government but a lot of which ends up on walls where they are not seen that much – love the Palimpsest ! slán tamall, M


  3. Lovely post Eoin! Actually I had a group of 5th/6th Class in at Finders and Keepers yesterday and they were really taken with Mise agus Tusa and the whole layering of the images by the artists. And I emphasised to them that this is our collection!


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