DUBLIN – Nobody can accuse Kerry Guinan of half measures. The Dublin artist, who graduated from Ireland’s National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in 2014, has not only exhibited throughout Ireland and in the Netherlands, but she’s intervened in Irish politics too, running for the Dáil (parliament) in 2016 on a platform that included state-supported art classes for all and the abolition of what she sees as class-based arts institutions—including NCAD. “Dismantle classist cultural value systems by creating a radical new art structure,” said her manifesto.
Guinan has also done extensive research on the relationship between art and property speculation. Her boldest move to date—one that she says prompted a visit from the Garda, Ireland’s national police—was to post an official-looking but totally fake sign in front of the Hugh Lane Gallery, a venue for contemporary Irish art run by the city of Dublin, that indicated that gallery admission, formerly free, would now cost six euros.
But, the notice added, you can still get in for nothing if you’re prosperous. “Tenants paying over €1,500 in monthly rent, workers with gross earnings of over €45,000 a year, and private sponsors of the Parnell Square redevelopment can avail of free entry,” the sign, and a press release that Guinan authored, explained.
The prestigious gallery is located in Parnell Square in central Dublin. The square is being redeveloped as a Cultural Quarter, anchored by a public library and involving the refurbishment of several 18th and early 19th-century residential buildings. For Guinan, this ambitious “revitalization” program presages just one thing: gentrification. She’s skeptical of the motives of Kennedy Wilson, a local real-estate firm contributing major financing to the redevelopment, supposedly pro bono.
She suspects the company of “using the cultural quarter to excuse their behavior in the city and their role in the housing crisis,” she tells Dublin InQuirer.
The minimum-income figures for free admission on her notice “are based on what she calculated to be the average rent in a Kennedy Wilson apartment, and what she imagines the average income of their tenants would be,” the InQuirer writes.
Guinan says that Garda officers visited her and warned her against a repeat of the hack. The sign, the press release, and a recording of Guinan’s conversation with the officers were exhibited July 20-23 in “Presenting the Cultural Quarter,” at the A4 art center.
A4’s web site notes that “Guinan creates public interventions that challenge art’s complicity in neoliberal capitalism. Her work frustrates interpretation of fact from fiction by appropriating the aesthetics of institutional authority.”
Given that fact-fiction blur, did she really get a visit from the Gardaí (cops)?
“Guinan laughs,” writes the InQuirer, “and says she loves these questions, but that no, this isn’t part of the artwork, the Gardaí really visited her, and, while they didn’t give her an official caution, they told her not to do it again.”