The Irish Nation, a collection of Irish iconography by renowned mosaic artist Mark Kennedy including works featuring George Best, Oscar Wilde, Sinead O’Connor and Shane McGowan, will be exhibited in cultural and creative venues throughout Manchester City Centre from 1st-31st March 2024.

 Commissioned by Irish Mancunian, an organisation that curates cultural events of Irish interest for Manchester audiences, The Irish Nation has been transformed into a free-to-view art trail with the support of global art producer, Wild in Art (Bee in the City, Gratitude), with each piece placed in a venue carefully selected to provide context to the piece.

Ten years in the making, the project began in 2015, when Mark Kennedy spontaneously created a piece of Samuel Beckett, a piece of work that awakened something within him, reaffirming his deep Irish roots. The stunning collection of original and previously unseen mosaics now portrays seventeen personalities from the worlds of literature, music, sport and history.

Singer Luke Kelly will be found at Hallé St Peter’s, Manchester United legend George Best at the National Football Museum, music icons Sinead O’Connor and Shane MacGowan at New Century, poet, playwright and wit Oscar Wilde at QueerLit, playwright Samuel Beckett at 53Two, and. John F. Kennedy at the Science and Industry Museum in a nod to the part he played in the moon landings

Sitting alongside the exhibition will be QR codes to take you straight to the website to learn more about the fascinating stories behind the art. Ground-breaking architect and furniture designer Eileen Gray, whose mosaic can be seen at Manchester Craft and Design Centre, was overlooked for a long time, as she worked in the male dominated Modernist movement, and boxing phenomenon Katie Taylor, whose portrait can be found at Koffee Pot, broke through the barriers to entry in boxing that meant she had start her career boxing as a boy and is now double World Champion.

Mosaic artist Mark Kennedy said: “My work for the last 30 years has been based on identity. My own identity and place of birth is the city of Manchester in the north-west of England, its social movements, politics, sport, film, music and television. When I was commissioned to create the Irish Nation series it felt like a natural extension of my work. The connections between Ireland and its people and the city of Manchester are utterly interwoven. Researching and undertaking this project over the last decade has been an education into Irish culture which has certainly enriched me.”

Manchester is a city with a long-established Irish connection, with an estimated 35% of the city’s population having some Irish ancestry, making it the perfect place to launch The Irish Nation.

Supporting the delivery of The Irish Nation is another step for Wild in Art and its ongoing mission to bring art out of the gallery and create shared experiences, whilst developing the next generation of artists. To date, Wild in Art has delivered over 130 public art trails, raising £26.3 million for charity partners across the world and has commissioned over 5.2k artists injecting £4.3m into local creative communities.

Ray Boyle, Irish Mancunian, says: “In 2015 on a visit to Mark Kennedy’s studio, I saw he had created a mosaic of the playwright Samuel Beckett. It was a truly beautiful and detailed piece; I told him it was his best work and I commissioned him to go further and widen his horizons. Almost a decade later we are blessed with the Irish Nation, a unique collection of 17 Irish icons in mosaic.

“The idea of an Art trail came quickly and perfectly fitted our preferred narrative that this was public art, in keeping with Mark’s earlier work. My initial thoughts of placing the pieces in small local businesses grew massively once I met Ben Reed of Wild in Art, and the host venues he has been able to help us to secure elevate the exhibition to a whole new level.

“We want to go to Ireland with this next; I was over there chatting to a gallery recently to see if they’d be up for having the entire collection but then I realised that it would be amazing to recreate what we are doing here, over in Dublin because the locations there would just be perfect. After Ireland, we want to go to America to the new state-of-the-art Irish Arts Center in NYC and exhibit the entire collection together there

Ben Reed, head of creative development at Wild in Art said: “When Mark and Ray told me about The Irish Nation, I immediately felt it was something that Wild in Art had to support. I have long admired Mark’s work and the idea of him being commissioned to create a body of work that celebrated Irish icons, that would be displayed in free to view locations, perfectly aligned to our values at Wild in Art and our commitment to a city we love.

“Wild in Art events in Manchester such as Bee in the City and 50 Windows of Creativity, have enabled thousands of people of all ages to experience art by making it a part of everyday life. Our events encourage extra visitors, a sense of civic pride and have a positive effect on the local economy in these difficult times. We are extremely proud to be able to support this exciting initiative and can’t wait to see how people engage with these incredible artworks in some of our favourite venues in the city.”

The full trail including locations of all pieces:

Luke Kelly at Hallé St Peter’s

Oscar Wilde at QueerLit

Morrissey of The Smiths on 1st Floor at Smith’s Tribute in Afflecks

Katie Taylor at Koffee Pot

Eileen Gray at Manchester Craft and Design Centre

Sinead O’Connor at New Century Hall

Shane MacGowan at New Century Hall

George Best at the National Football Museum

Brendan Behan at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Seamus Heaney at the Portico Library

James Joyce at Manchester Central Library

Constance Markievicz at the People’s History Museum

John F. Kennedy at Manchester Science and Industry Museum

Samuel Beckett at 53Two

The Quiet Man at HOME

Phil Lynott at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM)

Bridget O’Donnell (Famine Mother and her children) on the side of the Thirsty Scholar

Each artwork will have a plaque with a QR code taking you to where audiences can access a wealth of information about each subject and any specific links they have to the city of Manchester.


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