By Jessica Colley—
Of all Dublin’s renowned art genres – literature, music, theater – visual arts usually takes a back seat. Yet beyond famous theaters, bookstores, and traditional music sessions, there is also a great art scene to be found in Dublin. From the Irish masters to more contemporary galleries, art aficionados will find plenty to explore.
Here are a few of my favorite spots for art in Dublin, from the classics to the contemporary.
The Chester Beatty Library
Many first-time visitors to Dublin wander through the grounds of Dublin Castle, but don’t make it as far as the Chester Beatty Library. It’s tucked in the back of this complex, away from the main historic structure. This free museum has an impressive collection of Egyptian Papyrus texts, European medieval manuscripts, and temporary exhibitions too.
Currently a series of photographs of China from the late 19th century are on display through February 2012. The museum has a great rooftop space for lounging, and coffees at the Silk Road Café provide a burst of energy in the middle of a museum visit.
Monster Truck Gallery
The reputation of the Temple Bar neighborhood in Dublin is changing from a place where tourists buy overpriced pints of Guinness into the cultural quarter of the city. Much of this change can be attributed to new theaters, galleries, and markets.
One great example is the Monster Truck Gallery, a space for contemporary art that is especially interested in experimental new work. Here you can expect to see a representation of the Irish contemporary art scene.
The Doorway Gallery
A newcomer in Irish art is the Doorway Gallery. Two experienced curators from other Dublin galleries joined forces to open this space, devoted to exhibiting both painting and sculpture. From solo exhibitions featuring the work of a single artist to bigger shows featuring a range of artists, this exciting gallery always has something creative up its sleeve. With an incredibly central location on South Frederick Street, it is easy to pop in for a look around.
The National Gallery
An art-focused trip to Dublin should begin in the National Gallery. This free museum features an impressive collection of galleries showcasing artists from across Europe – but my advice is to focus on the Irish collections. Some of the more contemporary galleries in Dublin will take on new significance once you’ve seen the foundation of the local art scene, such as the impressive Jack B. Yeats collection.
Cheapos can bring the experience home with affordable postcards of Yeats’ famous works in the museum gift shop.
Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA)
While the previous art options are located in the city center (and easily accessible by foot) the Irish Museum of Modern Art is located in Dublin 8, a short bus or tram ride away from the center. For this reason, devote a morning or afternoon to exploring IMMA’s permanent collection of work dating from the 1940s onwards or the temporary exhibitions, ranging from painting to sculpture to video to performance art.
Art galleries are one of the best ways for cheapos to keep activity costs down during a trip to Dublin, and each of these options will give you a chance to explore a new neighborhood too.
Also in our guide: Heading to Dublin and looking for affordable places to sleep? Our editors have hunted down the best cheap hotels in Dublin, all visited, inspected and photographed by our team. Read more in our Dublin guide.