National Gallery continuing to employ Direct Provision operator despite artist and staff protests

Queer artist Brian Teeling, who removed his portrait entitled ‘Declan Flynn In Dublin’ from the gallery, responded to the National Gallery decision.

The front of the National Gallery who has employed a Direct Provision operator.
Image: Twitter: @NGIreland

The National Gallery of Ireland is standing by its decision to offer Direct Provision operator, Aramark, a catering contract for the establishment’s café. Gallery staff and artists have objected to the business relationship, with both groups penning letters to management expressing their concerns.

The letter written by employees earlier this month warned the board that the decision to award the operator of three Direct Provision centres would “cause irreparable reputational damage,” to the National Gallery. 

As news of the contractual agreement emerged, Brian Teeling, Emma Roche, and two other Zurich Portrait Prize shortlisted artists wrote a letter to management in solidarity with the gallery’s staff members.

The letter published last Friday reads: “Direct Provision is the greatest failing of our government today. Those who profit from it and support it should have no place at our National Gallery.

“It is unacceptable, deeply saddening and undermines the great work you have done as an institution,” it continues. “As current Zurich Portrait Prize exhibitors we are asking that this decision is reversed.”



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The gallery’s refusal to reverse the decision led Roche and Teeling to remove their works from the establishment. Brian Teeling’s portrait, Declan Flynn In Dublin, was originally commissioned for GCN’s 2021 Pride magazine, in memory of the Irishman who was killed in a homophobic attack in 1982.



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In response to the criticism they are currently facing, the National Gallery stated:

“As a public sector organisation, the Gallery is bound by Irish and EU procurement law as to how external suppliers tender for, and are awarded, contracts. The Office of Government Procurement sets the overall framework for public procurement and suppliers must meet the due diligence standards set by it.

“Aramark was awarded the contract following the tender process, as it scored highest on the prescribed assessment criteria. The Gallery is satisfied that the evaluation process was run correctly, and the contract awarded in line with procurement rules.”

In relation to the artists’ protests, the statement continues: “Two artists have been in touch with the Gallery to request that their work be removed from display. The Gallery respects the wishes of individual artists, but regrets the changes to the display.”

Finally, the statement concludes: “The Gallery provides programming to many different audiences. The broad range of our activities and initiatives across the entire Gallery positively reinforces the Gallery’s inclusive approach. The Gallery strives for excellence in the projects, programmes and activities it undertakes and will continue to do so.”

Brian Teeling stated he was extremely disappointed by what he described as a “non-response” and that it “reeks of someone who simply does not care about what has happened”. 

The artist added: “I will be writing to the Minister [for Public Expenditure] and address this issue with him directly. I will be encouraging others to do so too.

“Something is fundamentally wrong with procurement in this country if they are awarding contracts to companies that profit from Direct Provision.”

Teeling concluded his statement by saying: “In the future, we will look back on this time and wonder why we allowed such levels of barbarism, human suffering and rampant profiteering by private companies.”

© 2022 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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