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About the collection

The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaion started contributing towards the purchase of works of art in the mid nineteen fifties, with the establishment of the Joint Purchase Scheme, which assisted hotels and then local authorities to purchase work for public display. In the early sixties, the Council decided to form a permanent collection. An early ambition of the collection was to build a body of work that would form the basis of a tour of Irish art outside Ireland. This tour eventually took place in 1969-71 to Scandinavia, Germany, England and Scotland.

During the sixties and into the early seventies a series of tours of work from the Collection took place around Ireland. These tours were usually called "Paintings from the Arts Council Collection" or "Work from the Arts Council Collection". Until the early nineteen eighties there was no national collection of contemporary art in the Republic of Ireland. In that context, the Arts Council formed the view that one of the best ways to help visual artists, and promote contemporary practice, was to purchase works.

Even though the budget was relatively small, the impact of this policy was quickly felt in the visual arts sector. Members of the buying committee were invited to visit exhibitions before they officially opened. If the Council decided to buy, a small card would be placed beside the work that read "Purchased by An Chomhairle Ealaion / The Arts Council". This had a great impact and actually encouraged many private buyers who might be unsure as to the quality or otherwise of a painting or piece of sculpture.

The Arts Council continues to collect today, with the collection now comprising of 1,048 works in many different mediums. The majority of work is out on loan to public institutions, such as local authorities, hospitals or schools at any one time.