Visual art curator Tessa Giblin on Dublin’s artistic streak

Inside Dublin’s trendiest arts centre: Q&A with Tessa Giblin, curator of the Project Arts Centre

Tessa Giblin, Curator of Dublin's Project Arts Centre
Tessa Giblin, Curator of Dublin's Project Arts Centre

Now officially an Irish citizen seven years after resettling from Amsterdam in Dublin, New Zealand-born Tessa Giblin is a leading light in Dublin’s cultural life. As visual art curator of Temple Bar's Project Arts Centre, Giblin has welcomed dozens of international luminaries and championed local contemporary artists in a spectrum of white-hot exhibitions.

Amongst the buzz of drills and saws installing Czech artist Eva Kot'átková’s new exhibition, Tessa told us what made her adopt Dublin as her home.

What made you stay in Dublin?

For me, it was the excitement of working in a multidisciplinary arts centre. I was really quite amazed at the visual arts scene here in Dublin when I arrived. The quality of work happening in studios and the kind of residencies available for visual artists surprised me. Dublin was, and still is, a rich terrain for visual art.

When you first moved over did you find it easy to get involved in Dublin’s social and cultural life?

Very much so. It's so well-networked, and everybody is very supportive. Dublin is a relatively small city, you can just walk around and contribute and collaborate with other artists and galleries. I was helped by some friendly people who took me in, people with whom I've developed strong, close friendships.

I'm coming to Dublin tomorrow for the weekend, what galleries should I go to?

Project Arts Centre, clearly! You should visit the Irish Museum of Modern Art, go to Temple Bar Gallery & Studios, the Douglas Hyde (which is part of Trinity College), the Royal Hibernian Academy. You should catch some Caravaggio at the National Gallery – there are some interesting people in there who are trying to make contemporary ideas out of major, historical collections. You should also think about the private galleries that aren't funded by the state, like Mother's Tankstation, the Kerlin Gallery, Green on Red… I hope I'm not forgetting anybody!

One thing I've always thought about Dublin is that it's really diverse. It's so important the visual arts are free to the public, which is unusual. They act as sites for public hospitality. There aren't many places that you can just go, other than a park, and the fact that you can go to the National Gallery, or Natural History Museum is wonderful.

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Have you had friends over from New Zealand before? Where did you bring them?

Yes, I've had many friends and family members over to visit me in Dublin! Usually, I like to take visitors to Mulligan’s in Stoneybatter – they offer good wholesome Irish fare, and are delighted to let you taste the boutique beer from around the country before making your decision! With a toddler in the family though, home entertaining seems to be my current go-to solution, and so the weekend Honest2Goodness market at Glasnevin is great for fresh produce, a piping hot wood-fired pizza to keep the engine going, and plenty of play room for kids. In the city-centre, Fallon & Byrne can always be counted on for those special little extras.

In terms of cultural things to do, everybody tends to love the bog bodies – [it’s an amazing exhibition of preserved bodies from as far back as the Iron Age, which were found buried in Ireland’s rich bogs]. There are lots of curiosities like that. I'm also a big fan of the immediacy of Dublin's natural environment – I hop in the car or DART to go to Howth Head to walk all the time. It's so amazing that natural beauty is that easy to find.

There's one thing we've given you though – coffee. If you get your coffee from Roasted Brown, one of the guys was trained in New Zealand. I think that's our contribution to the city!

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