Battle on to save priceless art

Flood-hit gallery begins massive clean-up of damaged paintings

Paul Curtis, conservator in Muckross House, and Emer Towmey, UCC archivist, attempt to salvage artwork in the Glucksman Art Gallery in UCC

Ralph Riegel

ART preservation experts are now battling to save priceless paintings housed at UCC's Glucksman Gallery after it was left under more than five feet of murky flood waters.

Such was the scale of the flooding that the gallery staff were unable to move all art works out of the secure storage area before it flooded -- and have now even 'freeze-dried' some paper-based works to give time to decide how best to repair and preserve them.

Other paintings are being kept in water until preservation experts decide what is the best course of repair action.

Some of the 184 works include paintings by some the world's greatest modern artists including Louis le Brocquy and Martin Gale.

Glucksman director Fiona Kearney said that staff were totally overwhelmed by the speed of the flood and were unable to get all art works to safety.

"We received flood notification at 10pm on Thursday evening," she said.

"We were immediately on site but it flooded so quickly that it just wasn't possible to get people safely down to move all the works. You just wouldn't believe how fast the basement filled up," she added.

Glucksman staff have accounted for 183 of the 184 art works -- but many are understood to have suffered significant water damage.

Art experts described the flooding of the gallery -- built with donations from the late Lehman Brothers' trader Dr Lewis Glucksman -- as one of the worst disasters to hit Ireland's art world.

The Glucksman director explained that the gallery staff immediately moved to protect the art works the instant they were notified of the floods -- but the speed of the water overwhelmed them and their efforts.

"Our basement was completely flooded and it has the plant stores for the building as well as the art stores," she explained.


"We have a very severe problem on our hands and are doing everything we can to manage it," she added.

"We have been working throughout the weekend with an amazing group of conservationists and experts that have kindly come from throughout the country. We have had a wonderful response from our sister organisations such as the National Gallery of Ireland and the Chester Beatty Library to get the right people here," she said.

"Our focus has been on recovery and immediate treatment. We will be assessing them over the coming days to see what to do," she added.