Tourists rarely buy, according to one of the many talented artists whose art forms the half kilometre long exhibition along Merrion Square every Sunday. They used to buy before things got so fussy at airports, he tells me, with the pictures well bubble-wrapped to ensure they’d pass. Though airport security changes and recession have made times tough for most residents of this open air gallery, he perseveres every Sunday – to try and sell his art, to talk to those who inquire.
Whether you can post it, ship it, or run the packaging gauntlet at an airport, if you’re looking for an artistic piece of Dublin to bring home, Merrion Square is a good place to start. Founded in 1985, this exhibition along Dublin’s Georgian mile is home to 200 or so artists from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. every Sunday (some exhibit on Saturdays). They sell scapes of the city, the sea, suburbia, exurbia, and beyond. If you’re looking for portraits, modern art or depictions of Ireland beyond the metropolis, these too are available. All art is original, all exhibitors licenced, with the queue for a permit currently about two years.
Pictures of all sizes are available, with prices starting around €20. A4 sized originals, usually framed, seem to start from €100-200. The recent economic upturn has failed to greatly improve their lot and along with each new year bringing new artists, the exhibition has grown in size this year, with 72 new artists displaying. The artists, therefore, are willing to negotiate. Though many frustratingly don’t display prices, don’t be afraid to ask as hidden bargains can be found.
Even if you’re not interested or can’t buy, a leisurely walk around this high quality exhibition is worthwhile. You get a feel for the places and people that define Dublin artists’ work, including contemporary heroes, heroines and recent architectural changes. The afternoons can be long for the artists, and most are happy to talk about their work, their material and inspiration. Many proffer their business cards immediately, which you might be glad of when you get home.
Give yourself forty minutes. Wear sunglasses if you want to avoid their eye. If you’re buying and find that final choice tormenting, don’t be surprised. Take a break and go for coffee. The answer should present itself, and hopefully the prized possession will still be waiting – a piece of Ireland to bring home with the memories.