Excellent documentary. A brilliant piece of art criticism. A study in contrasts and juxtapositions, light and shade, it knows the value of an image, how to draw the eye to things you would not see otherwise. In this documentary, the National Gallery gets a depiction worthy of its renovation.
Anyone with an interest in renovation or art should watch this fascinating documentary.
Late in this excellent documentary, one of the curators at the National Gallery of Ireland describes his process in simple terms. “By putting pictures next to each other, they form a narrative. You see things you wouldn’t see otherwise.” That is as fluent and incisive a précis of Portrait of a Gallery as as you are likely to find.
2017, 80 minutes
In 2011, the National Gallery of Ireland closed its doors at Merrion Square, and two thirds of the building, to begin one of the largest refurbishment projects in the history of the state. Six years later, after numerous delays and costing close to €30million, the NGI finally reopened the historic Dargan and Milltown wings in June 2017.
This observational documentary film secured unique access inside the walls of the National Gallery of Ireland, the nation’s most visited cultural attraction, while the institution goes through huge change. If ever there was a time to have cameras in the gallery, during its 150-year history, this was it.
Three and a half years in the making, producer/director Adrian McCarthy and his team observed the day-to-day running of the institution while witnessing the transformation of the dilapidated historic Dargan and Milltown wings. A mammoth challenge for architects Heneghan Peng, the Office of Public Works and the construction team as they attempt to feed modern services beneath a protected 150 year-old and 110 year-old building, while also opening up new spaces never-before-seen by the public.
Over the life of this transformation we get to know director Sean Rainbird and members of his team as they deal with over 700,000 yearly visitors while planning on-going exhibitions and preparing the collection for the largest re-hang in the Gallery’s history. We spend time with head curators as they meticulously prepare for months in advance of the re-hang.
On 14 June 2017, the day has finally come with An Taoiseach officially opening the newly refurbished National Gallery of Ireland. Within 24 hours the Irish public finally get their chance to return to their beloved Dargan and Milltown wings. It has been a long wait. Was it worth it?
A DVD of the film is available directly from or can be purchased in the NGI shop.
Irish Times Review: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/tv-radio-web/portrait-of-a-gallery-review-a-brilliant-piece-of-art-criticism-1.3136449
How we made Portrait of a Gallery: RTE Culture interview: https://www.rte.ie/culture/2017/0627/885921-how-we-made-portrait-of-a-gallery
A Wildfire Films Production, with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, for RTÉ
Writer – Adrian McCarthy
Sound – Gregory Dunn, John Brennan, Sue Downey
Cinematography – Richard Kendrick
Additional Camera: Adrian McCarthy, Eleanor Bowman, Matthew Kirrane, Ross O’Callaghan