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SINCE 1783


When I was invited, as Head of the Collection

department at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, to visit

the collection of George and Maura McClelland in 1998,

I had no idea what a treasure chest awaited or what

possibilities it contained for the museum’s collection.

Incredibly, the McClellands were offering the museum

the opportunity to select hundreds of artworks, mainly

paintings, but sculpture, drawings, glass and ceramics

too, for an extended loan, for at least four to five years.

Given that IMMA’s collection policy was unashamedly

directed to acquiring contemporary work rather than

trying to buy historical work retrospectively with its

limited resources, the McClelland Collection was like

manna from heaven.While we were only too aware of

the need to contextualise the museum’s contemporary

agenda, the cavernous spaces of the Royal Hospital

Kilmainham and a limited purse to fill them, meant that

IMMA could not fulfil that need for the foreseeable


The McClelland

collection, at a stroke,

enabled IMMA to put

the history of Irish art,

especially of the

1930s to the 1970s

on show and in doing

so, to enable serious

research into some of

the most important,

but hitherto under-

studied artists in the

country’s heritage.

That fairytale moment grew, rather than diminished,

over the period of the loan, as some of it was gifted

outright, and additional artworks were added to the

original 400 or so objects that the museum selected.

When George and Maura finally sold a significant part of

their collection in 2003, the sale terms included a

stipulation that the new owner would donate about half

of it to the museum. For the first time, IMMA was able to

present exhibitions that showed the complete

development of the career of e.g. the chameleon-like

Colin Middleton, or to chart the years of Tony O’Malley’s

early struggles and his life in Saint Ives, because when

George fell for the work of an artist he bought large

The Art Collection of George & Maura McClelland

Maura & George McClelland with Catherine Marshall, in her role as

Head of the Collection, IMMA c.1998

George McClelland with artist Daniel O’Neill c.1970

Dust Jacket:The Hunter

Gatherer,The Irish Museum

of Modern Art, Dublin, 2004

Exhibition catalogue: 'Collectors' Choice, A selection of

works by Maura and George McClelland from their

personal collection and from the McClelland Collection

at the IMMA, Strule Arts Centre, Omagh and Highlanes

Gallery, Drogheda, 2007