September 27, 2016
Selecting the artists to paint Women on Walls
By: Jennifer O’Brien

We knew that the five new portraits for Academy House was a unique commission and that we needed to choose the most talented artists to help us create the symbolic shift change this project would bring about for gender equality. These paintings would be breaking new ground by demonstrating the huge contributions women have, and continue to make, in the sciences and humanities as well as encouraging young women to consider a career in STEM.

As part of this commission, we launched an open call and invited artists to submit previous artwork for consideration by a panel of local experts. There are two types of portraits commissioned. The first type is four individual portraits of the First Female Members of the Royal Irish Academy and the second type is a group portrait of eight European Research Council Starter Grant Recipients 2012 – 2015.

Guided by Business to Arts, we realised an open call for this project was the most inclusive way of involving the artistic community. It also gave us the opportunity to see a diversity of artistic practice and explore the subject of portraiture in Ireland. Each submission was discussed by the selection panel and was judged on merit and relevance to the commission brief. The selection criteria also included the appropriateness of the artist’s medium, style and previous professional experience related to the goals and opportunities of this project.

In order to evaluate the submissions a panel of leading figures in the Irish business and arts communities were invited to participate as judges. These were: Kathleen James-Chakraborty, Professor of Art History at University College Dublin, Catherine Marshall who is a freelance art writer and curator who has published widely on Irish art, Andrew Hetherington, Chief Executive of Business to Arts and Alastair Blair, Country Managing Director (CMD) of Accenture in Ireland.

Andrew Hetherington, Laura Mahony, Catherine Marshall, Kathleen James- Chakraborty, Pauric Dempsey, Alastair Blair

The open call to artists was a resounding success with 55 artists responding. The judging process took place at the RIA and each submission was reviewed against the specific criteria to ensure the most suitable artists were selected. The panel decided that it was best to commission two separate artists for the Women of Walls commission. After careful consideration, Vera Klute was selected to paint the four individual portraits of the RIA First Female Members and Blaise Smith was chosen to paint the group portrait of the European Research Council Starter Grants Recipients 2012-2015. Both artists were chosen not only for fulfilling the criteria but also due to the clarity they demonstrated in their proposals in terms of what they wanted the portraits to achieve and the process they would undertake to complete the portraits. The two successful artists were announced on 10 May 2016 and work has begun in earnest on the portraits for the reveal in December 2016.

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