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Exhibiting Ireland in the sixties : Rosc Laurence Allen, Antonia

Abstract

1967 in Dublin, Ireland, an exhibition opened its doors to a suspecting public. Rose '67 was a work of art in itself. It purported to display work from fifty of the 'best' international artists in the world. Rose was to occur every four years and be run by a committee who chose a jury of three to select works. Most of the art was contemporary, completed in the previous four years and displayed in a large hall on the grounds of the Royal Dublin Society, famous for its annual Dublin horse show. Like the celebrated Biennales which litter the world, Rose was a product of its homeland, and it is my task in this paper to unravel the specificities of Dublin in the sixties to reveal the cultural significance of this exhibition. During this decade, Ireland was governed by a group of officials breaking away from a revolutionary^based nationalism. This sentiment had built Irish sovereignty on the power of Catholicism, rural life, and Gaelic history. The new nation was being defined by a group who saw the economic benefits of joining the European Economic Community, solidifying business ties with America and internationalizing Irish industry. No longer were the Irish 'dancing at the crossroads,' in Eamon de Valera's famous words. Instead, the avenues of economic expansion and global politics were eagerly trod. Given these initiatives, it is curious to discover that Rose '67, while showcasing the world's contemporary art, chose to deny Irish artists a chance to exhibit their work. The Irish were represented at Rose '67 with an exhibition of ancient Celtic art. My contention is that Rose '67 was a project reflecting the Irish government's plans to 'modernize' Ireland in the 1960s. In being represented through a series of contemporary art shows, Ireland could be seen.as consistently tied to a 'modern' cultural project, and continually 'up-to-the-minute.' Rose '67 attempted to connect the past with a present tense and secure it with a future, by linking Celtic traditions with modern movements.

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