Portrait Lab

Image: Phil Collins - baghdad screentests, 2002

Phil Collins, Amanda Dunsmore, Clodagh Emoe, Marie Foley, Breda Mayock, Mick O’Dea, Brian O’Doherty, Geraldine O’Neill, Ugo Rondinone, Brian Teeling

Sat. 15 Oct. – Sat. 21 Jan.

Opens Fri. 14 Oct. 4pm - 8pm


The Sunset Belongs to You is accompanied by Portrait Lab, a thematic exhibition that explores representation through the expanded field of portraiture. The show poses a series of open ended questions about the way in which portraits function, to ask who is reflected in a public portrait collection and who is overlooked. It includes a range of Irish and international artworks including Ugo Rondinone’s Thanx for Nothing – a film portrait of the poet John Giorno; Phil Collins’ poignant and resonant  baghdad screentests, 2002; as well as Brian O’Doherty’s Portrait of Marcel Duchamp, a cardiogram reading made in 1966. The show also features a number of works by Irish artists focused on representing the lived experience of LGBTQ+ communities, travelling communities and people of colour.


Portraiture is humanity’s most enduring artform, with roots that can be traced back to our earliest known civilisations. For thousands of years the creation of someone’s likeness through drawing, sculpture or painting was the only way to document a person’s physical presence. At the same time, the function of a portrait has always been about more just than a record of how the subject looked. Portraits have been used to demonstrate status, wealth, morality, power, beauty, and even the inner psyche of the subject. In this way, portraits have played an important role in the establishment of the historical record. For hundreds of years, portraits could only be created by skilled artists, and it was only within the domain of the very wealthy to commission such an artwork. For that reason, by their nature portraits have tended to flatter their subject and emphasise their wealth and status. With the advent of the camera, capturing a person’s likeness became more democratic, and commissioned portraits went into decline. Because portraiture became uncoupled from the forces of commerce and power, artists began to have more freedom to experiment with the way that they represented people. They began to pay less attention to capturing precise facial features or exact likenesses, and started to develop new compositional devices, sometimes playing with colour, materials, or the background to explore what these things might reveal about the subject. While traditional portrait painting continues to flourish, in the twenty-first century, artists have regularly used other materials such as found objects and video to symbolically represent a person through portraiture.



Current Exhibitions