Military Road entrance to IMMA

©AnneMarie McCarthy/Lonely Planet

Irish Museum of Modern Art


Ireland's most important collection of modern and contemporary Irish and international art is housed in the elegant, airy expanse of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, designed by Sir William Robinson and built between 1684 and 1687 as a retirement home for soldiers. It fulfilled this role until 1928, after which it languished for nearly 50 years until a 1980s restoration saw it come back to life as this wonderful repository of art.

The building, which was inspired by Les Invalides in Paris, is a marvellous example of the Anglo-Dutch style that preceded the Georgian Age; at the time of its construction there were mutterings that it was altogether too fine a place for its residents.

Following Irish independence it was briefly considered as a potential home for the new Irish Parliament, but it ended up as a storage facility for the National Museum of Ireland. Restorations began on the occasion of its 300th birthday in 1984 and it opened in 1991. A major restoration between 2012 and 2013 gave it an extra bit of sparkle.

The blend of old and new comes together wonderfully, and you'll find such contemporary Irish artists as Louis le Brocquy, Sean Scully, Barry Flanagan, Kathy Prendergast and Dorothy Cross featured here, as well as a film installation by Neil Jordan. The permanent exhibition also features paintings from heavy-hitters Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, and is topped up by regular temporary exhibitions. There's a good cafe and a bookshop on the grounds.

There are free guided tours of the museum's exhibits throughout the year.

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