Dublin’s newest hotel features over 270 works of Irish and international street art curated by artist James Earley …
The Hendrick’s in-house art collection is particularly unique, celebrating urban art forms such as graffiti and street art, which is integral to the part of the Smithfield area where the hotel is located. Artist James Earley, who has played a pivotal role in the Irish street art movement, tells us more about the hotel’s vibrant collection.
What is the significance of the focal piece in the hotel lobby?
The Windmill Lane Studio is highly significant within a cultural and historical context of both Irish graffiti and Irish music, with U2 recording many of their albums inside the Windmill Lane Studio walls. The venue also provided one of the first legal graffiti walls in Ireland. Along with many of Ireland’s best-known graffiti artists (Maser, Rask, Sums, Jor, etc), I used it as a space to hone our craft. This piece is a section of the original wall adorned with artwork from artists Rask and Sums. On closer inspection it’s clear the artists are in notable company as the signatures of all four members of U2 are also present on the piece.
This piece of wall and a number of others were extracted before the studio was demolished in April 2015. It was then purchased by the hotel owner’s, Dublin Loft Company, for installation in The Hendrick. The money from the purchase of this piece raised funds for Action Prostate Cancer, an initiative of the Irish Cancer Society, as well as the Movember Foundation’s “Global Action Plan”.
The artworks throughout the hotel celebrate all eras of urban art. Can you tell us a little about the genre and different forms for those who are unaware of it?
The Hendrick’s art collection can be broken down into two main genres within urban art: graffiti and street art. Graffiti’s roots go back to 1970s New York. What began as artists “tagging” (spraying their signatures) on the street evolved into large-scale, complex, abstracted typographic works adorning entire subway trains. Graffiti puts an emphasis on typographic style, colour theory, composition and form. Traditionally graffiti artists paint freehand without the use of stencils or other aids. Street art is a recent movement that can be traced to the early 2000s. It’s fair to say that it encompasses all other forms of urban art outside of graffiti. Many of the artists have formal training within the arts, which is reflected in the gamut of media employed in street art – stencils, paste-up prints, oil paintings, installations, household roller paint and so on. Street art typically puts strong emphasis on artworks with a narrative, site-specific concept and political messages.
You have mixed local and international artists at the hotel – can you tell us about the acquisition and curation of these pieces?
Urban art is very much a global phenomenon and I felt it was important that the collection reflected this fact. I was also keen that the Irish artists were the stars of the show. The majority of all artworks in the hotel’s public spaces are Irish and 70 per cent of all funds were allocated to Irish artists. The lobby gives context to the history of graffiti and street art as well as highlights some of Ireland’s best artists. Each subsequent floor of The Hendrick focuses on a sub-genre within graffiti and street art.
“I Love NY”, Taki 183
Do you have any favourite pieces – where are they and why?
There are a few that stand out; Taki 183 (NY) is one. A piece of his work hangs in the lobby and he is seen as the first tagger to get noticed within the New York scene. Irish artist Aches has a signature sub-pixel portrait triptych displayed in the lobby too and with the high level of detail and technical precision in his pieces it’s not surprising he had a sell out solo show earlier this year. Stephen Burke, also from Dublin, and his tile installations (which you can see on the second floor corridors of The Hendrick) have a healthy dose of humour and entice the viewer to think about creative authorship within public spaces. Kaws (who is New York-based) is very much the man of the moment in the American auction-houses selling works for over $14 million. His toy/sculpture within the lobby is an excellent (miniature) example of of his largescale (at over 10 metres) exterior sculptures. I would advise collectors to grab one of his toys before the prices for these soar.
Do you get much time to spend on your own artwork these days?
Yes, I have a lot going on in my studio practice at the moment. I’m very lucky I have a strong team within Iverna.ie (my curatorial company), which helps with the logistics of these largescale projects.
What are you working on currently?
I’ve just launched a limited edition, hand-made rug with Ceadogán Rugs at House in the RDS. I’m really happy with the piece, it’s stunning in the flesh. Another project that I will be launching later this year is a box set of prints with print makers Stoney Road Press. I’m really excited about these, the level of technical complexity alone is something else. In regards to exterior works, I’ve a number of mural projects coming up this year, nearest in the future is Seek Mural Festival on June 15–22 in Dundalk. On the curatorial front, there are a few projects in the horizon but nothing I can talk about at the moment!
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