There are few important collections of modern or contemporary Irish art outside public galleries, and even those in public galleries are in many respects disappointing. The collection built up over 40-odd years by Kelly’s Resort Hotel & Spa in Wexford is one of the best exhibits of traditional art.
But it is more than a collection of Irish art; it includes works by English painters such as Howard Hodgkin, David Hitchens; Scots such as Elizabeth Blackadder and Joan Eardley (William Crozier is a special case, since he has been an Irish citizen for some time); Vasarley, who is Hungarian but lived and worked in France for decades; and Josef Herman, Polish-born but naturalised in Britain. On top of all this, thrown in graphic works by Picasso and Miro, by Rouault (one of his great ‘Miserere’ series of etchings), Foret, Redpath, Andy Worhal and by Alexander Calder, American-born and one of the century’s greatest sculptors.
The collection began when the painter Kenneth Webb, who is also well known as a teacher, was invited to hang a selection of his work in the hotel, along with those of his pupils. The response was positive, and in the 1960’s the hotel management utilised the Arts Council’s scheme for hanging the work of Irish artists in places where they could be seen by more that a narrow circle of art lovers.