'Rembrandt would struggle in today's art market,' says Limerick artist John Shinnors

Painter to make his long awaited comeback with new collection in May

Anne Sheridan


Anne Sheridan



'Rembrandt would struggle in today's art market,' says Limerick artist John Shinnors

John Shinnors in his city studio Picture: Adrian Butler

'REMBRANDT would struggle to sell in today's Irish market,' one of the country's most renowned artists has said, as he prepares to hold his first solo show in five years.

Limerick artist John Shinnors, 66, has largely made a full recovery after being knocked down on a motorway by an off-duty garda two years ago - which saw him spend three months in hospital - but he feels the same cannot be said of the art world.

“If you were Rembrandt and had an exhibition in a gallery today you would struggle to sell in the Irish market. The only market is for the old - the dead [artists]," he told the Limerick Leader, citing the work of Jack B. Yeats, Sir William Orpen and Sir John Lavery as being impenetrable to the economic storm.

Shinnors' 14-piece collection, priced from €10,000 to some €30,000 for the largest canvas, will be unveiled in Dublin's eminent Taylor Galleries in late May.

But the abstract artist, whose work sold for €70,000 for a commissioned canvas in the boom, said he "doesn't care" whether the pieces sell or not, or how much they fetch.

“Some artists in Ireland made a lot of money in the boom. I'm at a stage in my life where I'm OK. I paint because I want to paint. If I didn't make any money I'd still be painting. Poets will still write poetry, musicians will still make music, painters will paint. It goes on regardless," he said.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Limerick Leader this week, he said the thing that irritated him during Limerick's year as City of Culture in 2014 was that "bloody [Giant] Granny. 

"It was a ridiculous idea, and the money spent on it. I don't think it was a good idea at all, and it had nothing to do with culture. 

“I wish it had fallen into the Shannon. It had nothing to do with Limerick; it was just an import,” he said of the Royal de Luxe €1m production from the French theatre company, which attracted tens of thousands of people to the city, and for many was a highlight of the year long cultural programme.

While Limerick's bid last year to be the European Capital of Culture in 2020 was claimed by Galway, Shinnors believes “a lot of boll***s goes on there as well” within certain arts committees, and perhaps even within the selection committee itself. 

“I think one of their gripes were 'Why don't we have more inclusion with the Travelling community?' 'Feck it', says I, 'how much more do you want to include them and they don't want to be included'? 

“The word culture is abused and over-used. Travellers don't have a culture - they have a lifestyle. Drinking culture isn't a culture - it's a lifestyle. It's overused in the same way that the word love is, in many ways, or specifically 'making love'."

- See the weekend editions of the Limerick Leader for the full interview; available in all shops now