Serious problems for Irish Artists.


Irish Artists in serious trouble.

Artists who were once the toast of the boomtime developers are now on the breadline, according to Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan.

He told the Sunday Independent that he had been personally contacted by members of the art world who have signed on the dole as their work dried up.

"If you look at the overall profile of Irish artists at the moment, there are very few – except the exceptional few – making a lot of money at this moment in time. Actually, a lot of them are on unemployment jobseeker's allowance and are finding it extremely difficult.

"Some really good artists, some of our top painters at the moment, are finding it very hard to sell their product. Irish artists who were doing well in the Celtic Tiger – when everybody wanted an original of their work – unfortunately that's no longer the case now and they are finding it extremely difficult."

Irish painter and sculptor Graham Knuttel, whose work has been collected by various celebrities, such as Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, and Frank Sinatra, echoed Mr Deenihan's sentiment.

"I would agree with him, it's tough out there. But I was one of the lucky ones, I guess. I didn't rely on the nonsense buying, where developers were just showing off to each other," he said.

"It was nonsense. They wouldn't even know what they were buying. They would bring home abstract paintings and hang them upside down.

"But I'm sure there is a breed of artists living on the breadline. An awful lot took out mortgages on the back of how well they were doing in the good times. They're the ones in trouble now.

"I never really knew what my paintings sold for in the good times but I sell directly myself now. I don't have an agent any more, so I don't have to pay that side of things.

"There is only really room for about 50 artists but the market became flooded at one stage with amateur artists getting into the business and now we're seeing the affects of that."

Mr Deenihan said that some artists were being kept going by commission from 'the per cent for art scheme', a government initiative first introduced in 1988 whereby 1pc of the cost of any publicly funded capital, infrastructural and building development can be allocated to the commissioning of a work of art.

Since 1997, this scheme has been made available to all capital projects across all government departments.

Mr Deenihan described how members of the Irish theatre world and the visual and performance industry were also struggling to cope.

"Most artists that I know, an awful lot of them, be it visual or performance artists, are on the breadline," he said. "They are going through a very difficult period at this moment in time.

"Principally because one time some of them maybe would have been with touring companies or whatever they would tour around the country and that's not happening at the moment.

"These are genuine people who wouldn't go public with their worries and concerns but they would talk to me individually," he added.


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