A home for art in Belfast's stained soul

22 September 2008, Northern Ireland

The Royal Uster Academy of Arts Annual Exhibition '08 runs until Oct 19 at the Titanic Drawing Offices, Belfast. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (using lottery funds) and business people have been generous in getting the show off the ground. Campaigners hope that the North's new Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Gregory Campbell MLA, of the DUP, will be similarly inclined when asked about a more permanent arrangement.

"This is Belfast's Pompeii," McDonnell says. All this grandeur and decay. It is overwhelming. There is a real generosity of scale - it would make the most wonderful modern art museum."

"You need to maintain a sense of identity for an artistic community, and Belfast has no worthwhile major gallery," she says. "I feel sorry for tourists who come here to see Northern art. There is nowhere for them to go. I recently learned that George McClelland's fine collection, with paintings by Colin Midleton, Gerard Dillon and George Campbell, has been bequeathed to Imma in Dublin."

THE DRAWING OFFICE is uniquely suitable, she believes, writing in her catalogue essay that the building "quite possibly contains the stained and grey soul of Belfast". Now part of what has been renamed the Titanic Quarter, the building is listed for its architectural interest, and so cannot be demolished. Soon, however, it will be surrounded by shiny new office and appartment blocks built by the new owners of the site, the Dublin-based Harcourt Developments.

Original printed article © 2008 The Irish Times