Plan your visit to see any of the current exhibitions by viewing location, transport, and facilities information here.
16th October 2016 – 2nd April 2017
To mark 185 years since an Act of Parliament in Westminster established the Office of Public Works [OPW], a number of projects have been instigated by the OPW185 Project Team.
From 16th October 2016 to 2nd April 2017, an exhibition, OPW185, will be displayed at Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin. The exhibition attempts to demonstrate the breadth of public works and services carried out by generations of OPW staff over the 185 years. A Timeline has been designed that is 18.5 metres long, which illustrates the Government Acts that have directed the work of the OPW; the main events in each decade; significant projects; the Chairmen of the Office Public Works and world events impacting on Ireland.
The items and artefacts exhibited were all proposed, submitted or loaned by OPW staff, both current and retired, following a process of staff engagement in June/July 2016. These items/artefacts have been categorized loosely in relation to the tasks involved, such as Drawing, Measuring, Conserving and so forth. Illustrated short stories/reminiscences of OPW staff are also included.
A programme of associated events is planned to coincide with the exhibition at Rathfarnham Castle.
In addition, a catalogue of selected files and drawings held by the National Archives relating to the OPW, and CD-ROMs of similar material are held at the OPW Library, OPW Headquarters, Trim, Co. Meath.
It is hoped that this exhibition, and the availability of research material, will stimulate interest in the social history surrounding the provision of public works, and the work of the OPW.
Holger Hertwig Exhibition
April 1st – April 29th 2016
Wednesday – Sunday 10.30am – 5.30pm. Last admissions 4.15pm.
An exhibition of paintings by German Expressionist artist Holger Hertwig. All the works in this exhibition are from the artist’s Ireland series. The proceeds of sales of the works will be donated by the artist to Crosscare, a charity which works with homeless people.
Admission to this exhibition is free. Please note admission fees apply to visit the castle or take a guided tour.
Brian Ballard Retrospective
Until 16 December 2015
This is a major solo exhibition by renowned artist Brian Ballard, a major milestone in the artist’s career – a fifty year retrospective of the work of Ballard who has lived and worked in the city of Belfast for the last seventy years. This keenly anticipated exhibition has been scheduled to coincide with the reopening of Rathfarnham Castle.
Brian Ballard was born in Belfast in 1943. He studied at Belfast College of Art (1961-64) and Liverpool College of Art (1964-65). After a year of teaching, he accepted a post as Exhibitions Officer for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, where he stayed from 1966 to 1985. During this time, Ballard came into contact with many leading Irish and British artists, which gave him insight into the possibilities which could be open to him as a painter. He was given a sabbatical enabling him to travel and paint for a year. This proved a turning point in his painting career, and he subsequently left the Arts Council to paint full time. Ballard purchased a cottage on an island in Donegal in 1990, which became a retreat, and a source of inspiration for his work.
Marianne O’Kane Boal is a well-known curator and art and architecture critic. She has written extensively on these subjects over the past 15 years. She writes for the Irish Arts Review, Perspective, Living Design, Visual Artists Newsletter, Art Quarterly and Architecture Ireland. She served as a Director on the board of the Context Galleries, Derry for seven years and has been on the Editorial Committee of Perspective since 2003. She is former Visual Arts Officer for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and has worked for the Office of Public Works in Dublin. She has curated over forty exhibitions including Exploring Spaces,’ 2014, Mid Antrim Museum at the Braid, ‘The Stories Buildings Tell,’ Balor Arts Centre, Donegal, 2011, ‘Two Minds: Ten Artists and Ten Architects’ Belfast and Dublin, 2007 and John Kindness Retrospective, Belfast, 2006. She is a member of AICA and Expert Advisor on Art for the Ministerial Advisory Group on Architecture and the Built Environment.
2015 (Currently showing)
The modern ceramics displayed throughout the building originally formed part of an exhibition held in Dublin Castle in 2014 by members of the International Academy of Ceramics. They were subsequently donated by the artists involved to the Office of Public Works and it is intended to exhibit all of the donated pieces in a series of exhibitions. This first exhibition is inspired by historic references to the presence of fine ceramics in Rathfarnham Castle- the earliest reference dates back to 1604 and is found in the will of Archbishop Adam Loftus. Their presence in Rathfarnham Castle also recalls Austin Cooper’s account of a visit here in the late 18th century when he wrote ”…the Rooms are finished in a most superb manner, all profusely filled with elegant paintings, China Vases, Urns &c, &c”.
Recent excavations in the castle uncovered a treasure trove of 17th century ceramics. These finds included porcelain plates, bowls and cups some of which originated in China. Reflecting the international origin of the historic ceramics these modern ceramics also originate in many countries across the globe: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Israel, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Switzerland, USA and the UK.
The Berkeley Costume and Toy Collection
2011 – 2013
The Berkeley Costume and Toy Collection is an exquisite collection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century toys, dolls, and costumes. The collection began as a private passion in Co. Wexford over twenty years ago by Irish artist and collector Countess Ann Griffin Bernstorff. The collection was gathered together over many decades from her own family trunks and from auctions and donations.
From 2011 to 2013, the exhibition was displayed in the elegant rooms of Rathfarnham Castle. Covering a period of some eighty years from 1740-1820, the exhibits range from rare and delicate artefacts to simple and robust playthings, and everyday garments of the past many of which were once owned by Irish families.
Some highlights from the exhibition are presented here. This exhibition is now on display in Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare.
The Berkeley Costume and Toy Collection
Use the arrows to the left and right to explore some highlights from the Berkeley exhibition. All photographs are courtesy of Axel Bernstorff.
Evening dress á la française c. 1760. Stomacher, 1730.
Gentleman’s brown three-piece day dress suite, 1785.
Silk sack-back gown with pagoda sleeves. 1770.
A doll in dark velvet by François Gaultier. French, 1870.
Dolls at this time were often used as advertisement for couteriers. Top design houses would make a miniature collection for the doll trade with the latest fashions.
The French version of Punch or Puncinella. 1910.
The corset on this doll pushes up under the arms to bring them back as far as possible, emphasising the tiny waist.
Whistling Parisian Baker’s Boy doll. French, 1890.
Newport rocking horse used to teach children riding skills. The costume worn by the model is a faithful copy of a seventeenth/eighteenth-century riding habit, and was used for pageants in Edwardian times.