Art trail of Irish iconography in mosaic opens across Manchester

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

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

The mosaic of Oscar Wilde on display at QueerLit. Image: David Oates Photography.

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.

The mosaic of boxer Katie Taylor at Koffee Pot. Image: David Oates Photography.

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 our 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 5,200 artists injecting £4.3m into local creative communities.

The mosaic of Sinéad O'Connor in New Century Hall. Image: David Oates Photography.

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
  • Sinéad 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 a wealth of information is available about each subject and any specific links they have to the city of Manchester.

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