Monday 22 January 2018

Brigid Harte

Impresario of the visual arts who had an intrepid eye for the innovative, writes Anne Haverty

BRIGID Harte would prefer to be remembered for her work as a Paris-based impresario of the visual arts rather than for her beauty. But she was extraordinarily beautiful. Tall and splendid though she was, it was the inner light showing through that people, women no less than men, saw and never forgot. As her stepfather Brendan Quigley said in his funeral eulogy, "she lit up our hearts".

Born in 1967, Brigid grew up in Legan, Co Longford, daughter of Margaret Harte and farmer and publican Eugene. Her father died when she was 16. In her early-20s, Brigid set off for Paris, armed with a Tefl qualification. Brigid loved Paris and everything French -- a French flag was the first offering at her funeral mass -- and she was an habitue of the city's coolest cafes and dance spots. She did teach English there but above all Paris gave her the opportunity to develop her passion for art. By the Nineties, she was living in the Bastille quarter, the new centre for exciting contemporary art, and curating innovative projects in association with Irish art festivals such as Galway and Eigse in Carlow.

Brigid's forte was championing the work of emerging artists and introducing it to Irish audiences. She had an intuitive brilliance and an intrepid eye for the innovative and significant. The artists Cleary Connolly recognised their indebtedness in a book they dedicated to her.

Equally in 2001, she could persuade the eminent post-modernist philosopher Jean Baudrillard to present his photographs in Galway; though the coup of engaging him in a public conversation there sadly didn't happen as he fell ill and couldn't travel.

A memorable photographic project by Esther Gertz in Dublin's north inner city, which Brigid curated in 2003 for the Firestation Studios and won the enthusiasm and co-operation of the local community, was another major event. This dramatic night-time installation using history, memory, the modern and the derelict past meant much to her as it reflected her own concerns.

When Brigid was only in her 30s, she was diagnosed with an incurable illness. Far too soon, the art scene was deprived of her and she of it. She was devastated. But she faced her accreting disabilities with hope and courage and resisted leaving her beloved Paris until she could no longer live independently. For her last five years she lived in Longford, cared for by her family. As they do, her many friends will remember her huge capacity for love. And her generosity towards artists will be remembered with warmth and gratitude.

She is survived by her mother Margaret, stepfather Brendan, sister Maria and brother Peter.

Sunday Independent

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