National Museums NI acquire Turner Prize winner for the National Collection

'The Druithaib's Ball' by Belfast based artists known as Array Collective will be going on display in the Ulster Museum.

27 May 2022: National Museums NI is delighted to announce the acquisition of The Druithaib's Ball  -  the 2021 Turner Prize winning installation by Belfast based artists known as Array Collective. 

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The acquisition was a result of months of planning and discussion, along with the support from the Art Fund and the Department for Communities. The artwork will be on display at Ulster Museum from January 2023.

Array Collective are the first artists from Northern Ireland to win the prestigious Turner Prize. The group of eleven artists from the north and south of Ireland, England and Italy all live and work in Belfast creating collaborative actions in response to socio-political issues affecting them and their communities.

Array Collective said: “We are thrilled the installation will have a permanent home in the North of Ireland. The acquisition for the Ulster Museum collection means that the work will be preserved for years to come and will be enjoyed by local audiences.”

The Druthaib’s Ball responds to the anniversary of the partition of Ireland, grappling with cultural identities through characters, music, poetry, storytelling and myth-making, with the backdrop of a wake.

“This important contemporary work will now be in the hands of the public, with the Ulster Museum serving as a significant home for the artwork, enabling its long-term preservation for public benefit. We would not be in this position without the help and participation of many grassroots organisations, artists and human rights advocates in Belfast. We wish to acknowledge the individuals, who without their continued support and talent, we would not have been given the opportunity.”

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Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive at National Museums NI, said: “Having a Turner Prize winning piece of art in the collection is a significant milestone for National Museums NI and we look forward to welcoming visitors to come and see it when it’s on display at Ulster Museum in January next year.

“Array Collective is a testament to the skills and creativity we have here in Northern Ireland. I am committed to making inspiring collections, such as this, available to our audiences in order to nurture and preserve this talent.”

Jenny Waldman, director of Art Fund, said, “The announcement of Array Collective as the winners of last year’s Turner Prize was a thrilling moment for the arts in Northern Ireland, and Art Fund is delighted that the winning work will now join National Museums NI’s collection, allowing its long-term preservation for the enjoyment of everyone. Thanks to the support from our members, Art Fund is able to help enrich museum collections and ensure as many people as possible can access them.”

Northern Ireland has a long history of collective and socially engaged artistic practice. For this to be recognised by the Turner Prize through the nomination of the Array Collective was an incredibly important moment in the history of Northern Irish art and activism.

Anna Liesching, Curator of Art at National Museums NI commented: “Their nomination drew attention to the history of practice here and to the incredibly valuable and nuanced work of Array. In one installation they communicated the complicated history, underrepresented narratives and perceived invisibility of this place with sensitivity, warmth and in an accessible way. Visiting the installation in Coventry at the 2021 Turner Prize exhibition was an incredibly emotive and inspiring experience, I knew it had to be celebrated beyond the prize.

“The sense of pride and excitement in Belfast when the win was announced was electric. It has continued to build momentum and ignited conversation around the need for studio provision in Belfast. It has also highlighted the potential of art as a tool to address wider societal issues. We feel it is important to give this winning work a permanent, and public, home in order to continue these conversations.”