Top 10 Must-See Art Exhibitions in Belfast

“Le Plongeur Paper Pool 18 (1978)” by David Hockney | Courtesy of The MAC
“Le Plongeur Paper Pool 18 (1978)” by David Hockney | Courtesy of The MAC
Photo of Tabitha Buckley
6 July 2016

Belfast is a city soaked in a rich cultural history, which means that it has a fantastic arts and culture scene to offer its population and its visitors alike. Unfortunately, so many of us don’t make the time to think about what exhibitions and artistic events are on, because we simply don’t have the time. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of some of Belfast’s best art exhibitions for you to enjoy. Check them out!

1. David Hockney: I draw, I do

19 Aug 2016 – 16 Oct 2016

David Hockney is an English painter, printmaker, photographer and stage designer. He played a significant role in the Pop art movement of the 1960s, and is often considered to be one of the most influential British artists of the last century.

This exhibition marks Hockney’s 80th year, focusing on his earlier works such as those from his well known Paper Pools series, as well as his more recent works. The intention of the exhibition is to celebrate David Hockney’s keen interest in drawing.

The exhibition is to be held in the MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre), located right at the heart of Belfast’s cultural core. One of Northern Ireland’s most important artistic venues, the MAC holds three incredible art galleries within its spectacular six-storey building.

The MAC, 10 Exchange Street West, Belfast BT1 2NJ, UK, +28 9089 2960

2. Milena Bonilla, Cecily Brennan and Elvira Santamaría-Torres: Victories are Short-lived

Thu 23rd June – Sat 13th August / 6:00 pm – 5:00 pm

This exhibition features work from three fantastic artists who come from very different backgrounds. Bonilla, born in Columbia, works through a number of different mediums, including video, drawing and photography, to explore themes such as territory, politics and nature. Born a little closer to home in Galway, Ireland, Brennan explores the themes of trauma and human pain through multimedia practices. Finally, born in Mexico City, Santamaría-Torres makes use of action art to explore issues of the self, the nature of reality and human relationships.

The focus of this exhibition is the prompting of reflection and discussion on the aftermath, both phenomenological and psychological, of conflict. A great deal of power is drawn from the relationship between nature’s fragility and its resilience, as explored in each artist’s work.

The exhibition is being held in Belfast’s Golden Thread Gallery, a space which has come a long way from its origins as a linen mill on one of Belfast’s ‘Peace Lines’. Nonetheless, these roots are explored beautifully in the exhibition, which could not possibly be held in a more fitting space.

Golden Thread Gallery, 84- 94 Great Patrick Street, Belfast BT1 2LU, +44 (0)28 90 330920

© Golden Thread Gallery

© Golden Thread Gallery

3. Matthew Finn, Joanna Piotrowska and Tereza Zelenkova: Jerwood/Photoworks Awards 2015

5 August to 1 October 2016

This is another exhibition that allows you to see the works of three separate artists side by side. Finn’s work consists of a series of collaborative portraits he has created of his mother since 1987. Piotrowska’s work is concerned with the anxiety and effects on the individual associated with political and global events. Zelenkova’s work explores the folklore, local legends and history of her native Czech Republic. The three bodies of work interact with each other in a unique and fascinating way.

The exhibition is being held in Belfast Exposed, Northern Ireland’s main gallery for contemporary photography. The gallery commissions, publishes and exhibits work by photographers and artists from Northern Ireland and worldwide.

Belfast Exposed Photography, The Exchange Place, 23 Donegall Street, Belfast BT1 2FF, +44 028 9023 0965

4. Keiler Roberts: Powdered Milk

23 Jun – 07 Aug 2016

Keiler Roberts has to be one of the most original and vibrant individuals on the contemporary comics scene. Her work lies in the tradition of autobiographical comics, which first gained popularity in the late 1960s and continues to grow in popularity.

This exhibition will be Roberts’s first solo show to be held outside of the U.S., and features original artwork including preliminary sketches, wall drawings and minicomics from her Powdered Milk series.

This show will be held in The Naughton Gallery, which hides in the Lanyon Building at Queen’s University Belfast. The gallery enjoys an exciting programme of works, featuring pieces from the university’s collections and visiting artists alike.

The Naughton Gallery at Queen’s, Lanyon Building, Queen’s University, Belfast BT7 1NN, +44 (0) 28 9097 3580

Lanyon Building at Queen’s University Belfast ©Jennifer Boyer flickr

Lanyon Building at Queen’s University Belfast ©Jennifer Boyer flickr

5. Gerard Dillon, 1916-1971

10:00 – 17:00, Fri 27 May 2016 – Sun 6 Nov 2016

The Irish artist Gerard Dillon was born in Belfast in 1916. He left school at fourteen to work as a decorator and painter in London, owing to his interest in art which began at an early age. He began working as a self-taught artist in 1936, eventually having the double honour of representing not only Ireland at the Guggenheim International, but also Great Britain at the Pittsburg International Exhibition.

Dillon’s exhibition this year will mark the centenary of his birth through a celebration of his work. It features a great number of Dillon’s most popular works from both public and private collections, exploring his various connections with London, Belfast and the West of Ireland.

The exhibition is taking place in the Ulster Museum, located in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens. This is one of the largest museums in the country, enjoying around 8,000 square metres of display space containing collections of art, ethnography, local history and applied art.

Ulster Museum Botanic Gardens, Belfast BT9 5AB, 0845 608 0000

6. Hector McDonnell: An Exhibition of Recent Paintings

Wednesday 22nd June 2016 to Wednesday 6th July 2016

This one’s pretty short, so you may have to run!

Said to be one of his generation’s finest figurative Irish artists, the realist painter Hector McDonnell is best known for his knack for capturing mundane moments in extraordinary ways.

An exhibition of his recent paintings will be on show in James Wray and Co, which was established in the historical Linen District in 2007.

James Wray & Co., 14-16 James Street South, Belfast BT2 7GA, Northern Ireland, 028 9031 3013

7. Ryan Kai Orme: Rise and Fall

8th – 23rd July / Opening 6-9pm, 7th July 2016

Ryan Kai’s work exists in the form of paintings, murals and sculptures. He has played an ongoing part in the graffiti movement, having been involved in a number of major projects, books, publications and exhibitions which document its history. This will be a really great exhibition to get along to if you have any interest in the street art scene.

The idea behind this exhibition is that of extractionism, whereby value is taken from an object or idea without being replaced. It is made up of sculptures and paintings, documenting an exploration of the idea of people as a resource, and the exploitation of this resource.

Rise and Fall is to be held in Platform Arts, a gallery which aims to develop the contemporary art scene in Belfast. The company is very much artist-focused, placing a great deal of importance on the active development of creative development and its accessibility to Belfast’s various communities.

Platform Arts, 1 Queen Street, Belfast BT1 6EA, 028 9031 1301

8. The Great War Exhibition 1914 – 1918

16 May 2016 – 31 Jul 2016

Hosted by Rockies owner Jim Graves, this special WW1 exhibition is a personal journey. Graves’ grandfather, James Drummond of Scotland, enlisted with the Royal Canadian Regiment in 1915 and went on to serve in France.

The exhibition encourages visitors to share photos of family members involved in the First World War and tell their own stories. It’s a small reflection on the incredible sacrifices by the countless individuals whose lives were torn apart by the war.

The outlier in this list of galleries and museums, this special exhibition is hosted in Rockies Sports Bar.

Rockies Sports Bar House of Sporting Legends, Odyssey Pavilion, 2 Queen’s Quay, Belfast BT3 9QQ, +44 (0) 28 9046 7020

The Palace at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 | Imperial War Museum

The Palace at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 | Imperial War Museum

9. Leslie Nicholl: Stretcher Bearer! The Last Days of Mankind

3 Jun 2016 – 30 Jul 2016

Born in 1955, Leslie Nicholl lives and works in Bangor, Co. Down, but he also works for part of the year in Berlin. His work is extensively researched during his endless journeys through Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, an endeavour which greatly paid off when he became the only Irish artist invited to exhibit in Dresden in 2005.

In this exhibition, Nicholl has unveiled a selection of intricate and beautiful paintings of the Irish, British, French, German and Ulster stretcher bearers who served in the Battle of the Somme. Pieces in the exhibition are complemented by stunning pieces from Sam Burnside’s recent book of poems, Forms of Freedom.

This event is taking place in the Linen Hall Library, a unique institution which is the oldest library in Belfast as well as the last subscribing library in Ireland.

Linen Hall Library, 17 Donegall Square North, Belfast BT1 5GB, 028 9032 1707

10. Keith Wilson: Calendar

Keith Wilson’s work is currently based in New York, London and Sheffield. Over the past twenty years, he’s staged a number of major solo exhibitions in London, Preston and Birmingham, and now it’s Belfast’s turn.

The core of Wilson’s exhibition lies in a massive structure made of galvanized steel, consisting of a number of cubic units organised in a way that closely resembles a calendar. These units contain various different objects which offer an insight into the artist’s own studio.

Keith Wilson: Calendar | Courtesy of The MAC

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