How did a private coach house containing the horses of the wealthiest of Limerick citizens transform into a well sought after space for exhibiting fine art today?
That’s what I’d like to explore in today’s blog. The Coach House here at The People’s Museum of Limerick, No.2 Pery Square is one of the last remaining in Limerick city that hasn’t been converted into a merely commercial endeavour. Thankfully there are such things as cultural taste and preservation in this world!
The stone work of this space is completely original from 1838. Its eye-catching red door and Georgian walled garden greet you as you enter, to find a surprisingly large space inside of its modestly quaint exterior. The space accommodates up to 60 people with comfortable seating available from the museum and even more standing.
The original residents would have kept a number of horses and carriages here at all times.
The upstairs loft which accommodated the ‘coachmen’ workers, also makes this a noticeably high roofed expansive space.
A point of interest for any curator, artist (or curious human with a project!), is whether or not the history of a space will directly influence their creative output for that space. The coach house presents us the opportunity for digging deeper into its origins or to simply relish in the aesthetic outcomes of how we find it today.
One can imagine what life must have been like for the coachmen living here, or can simply allow the curious details that are still remaining into the artwork’s final presentation. For those looking to understand a little more on what it was once like here, the coachmen living in the loft were employed to maintain the carriages, repairing any damage done to them and also to keep the horses happy and healthy.
Here are some noteworthy aesthetic qualities of the space, as can be seen in these photographs. They can be powerful to consider for the presentation of art, as they are the physical context of the space that the viewer will find themselves in. This is where the art lives for the duration of each show, so it becomes a part of the show experience beyond the direct view of each art piece.
It could be considered most important for those working in mediums such as installation, situational art, performance art, video installation, sound installation and sculpture but even for wall art, it’s worth considering that the pieces will be ‘framed’ in the overall qualities of the space shown here. In keeping with the origins of the words art and beauty as ‘to fit’ and ‘to fit in every sense’ respectively, something so well described by physicist and author David Bohm in his book ‘On Creativity’, the qualities of the space are certainly worth investigating when developing an exhibition here.
As you can see from the pictures shared here, the Coach House is a brick enclosure with a wooden ceiling, with temporary MDF walls within it for hanging wall art pieces. The space is noticeably tall and has both spot lights and standard fluorescent lights, to suit a highly lit or focused/ambient effect. The exhibition area is one floor space. There is an arch half way through the space which divides the space in half at the top as you look up.
The notorious Tontine scheme which we will cover in a future blog resulted in the Pery Square properties passing on to a select and lucky few. Many years later No.2 Pery Square has been renovated as a historical sight by Limerick Civic Trust. The renovation work took place in 1996-9 and has left us with a rare non commercialised gem that can be brought to life in many creative ways with art and more!
The side entrance of The Coach House conveniently has no steps and accommodates the transport of large objects from the alleyway outside.
It was from 1996 to 1999 that Limerick Civic Trust first carried out its restoration on No.2 Pery Square, including this special coach house space. The building was opened as ‘The Georgian House and Garden’ by President Mary McAleese in 1999. Now we can be grateful that such civic projects allow for many creatives endeavours to unfold in its still sturdy walls from 1838!
I encourage you to have a look at what exhibition is currently on show in the Coach House. For those with projects in mind you can also enquire with William our curator by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or with our friendly staff by phone at 083 399 4186
The space is typically used for art exhibits such as for the EVA art Biennial, currently being installed this August/September 2023, but so far has also been used for workshops, weddings, practice space for various purposes and even a pop-up cafe!
Author – Mike O’Brien