RHA Gold Medal 2021

RHA Gold Medal – Awarded to Anna O’Sullivan, Director and Chief Curator, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny

The President of the Royal Hibernian Academy, Abigail O’Brien PRHA was delighted to award Anna O’Sullivan, Director and Chief Curator, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny with the RHA Gold Medal, awarded annually to persons who have made a significant contribution to the arts in Ireland. Awarded at Varnishing Day of the 191st RHA Annual Exhibition, held on Sunday 26 September. A citation was given by Patrick T. Murphy, RHA Director and the medal which features a profile relief of the Academy’s second President, Francis Johnston was given to the recipient.

Anna O’ Sullivan Gold Medal Citation

“Today we honour an individual who for the past sixteen years has applied her professionalism and passion for art and artists to this nation and its artists. In Anna O’Sullivan, Ireland has a treasured professional.

Anna graduated from the National College of Art & Design Dublin then moved to New York and completed additional courses at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program and at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Alongside this scholarship, Anna first worked as curator of Performance Art at Franklin Furnace and then as a Director of the Robert Miller Gallery. In the latter position she curated and enabled many artists amongst whom were Alice Neel, Eva Hesse, Lee Krasner and Patti Smith.

After twenty years of refining and honing her skills in the hot house atmosphere of New York she returned to Ireland in 2005 to accept the position of Director of the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny and commenced a journey which was to elevate both its quality its operations and artistic ambition. In 2008, just three years after arriving Anna gained official museum accreditation for the Butler Gallery no mean feat requiring excellence on all fronts of museum activities.

Anna’s ambition infested the Gallery, she conceived and developed a plan for its relocation and expansion. Her vision for the Butler mesmerized her Board and infected Kilkenny County Council. Her keen skill of persuasion secured funding from the Dept of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and from Failte Ireland to join the investment from the City & County Councils, and from private donors, for the development of the Evans Home as the new stand-alone location for the Butler Gallery.

Though the project was thwarted by economic downturns and most recently be the global pandemic, through it all Anna steered her steely vision for the Gallery, and amid masks and social distancing, she orchestrated the opening of the Butler Gallery at its new location in the Evans Home on August 6th 2020. Now the Butler Gallery Collection and its Exhibition and Engagements Programmes have a brilliant building designed by McCullough Mulvin that can accommodate their growth and potential for decades to come.

Anna brings her own special sensitivity and a connoisseurship to curating exhibitions. A number of RHA Members can attest to her keen eye and delicacy in choosing and installing an exhibition. This ability was internationally recognised with her presentation, as Ireland’s representative, of the challenging work of Richard Moss at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.

Since 1994 the Royal Hibernian Academy has presented its gold medal to individual’s who have made a significant contribution to the arts in Ireland. To date this has included people such as Sir Alfred Beit, Dr. James White, John Hunt,  Professor Anne Crookshank, Grafton Architects, and to this list of 32 we are now delighted to honour the immense contribution of Anna O’Sullvan to the artistic fabric of this nation.”  Patrick T. Murphy, RHA Director, Sept 2021.

The 191st RHA Annual Exhibition runs until the 30 October. The Gallery is open 7 days a week. Mon  – Sat, 11 – 5pm and Sunday 2 – 5pm. Admission is free, suggested donation €5. The exhibition is supported by a full colour catalogue costing €20 available at reception.

Photographer Paul Sherwood.