For the past year the prestigious gallery has been moved to other sites across the city, including Istabraq Hall in City Hall, and its €5 million collection of some 800 pieces held in secure storage.
It is now hoped that visitor numbers could increase from 30,000 per annum up to 50,000 per year upon its re-opening, curator and acting gallery director Pippa Little has said.
“It looks so good now and we are very excited about getting back in there. It is filled with sunlight now and makes the gallery a lot more navigable.
“The extension will mean we won’t have problems borrowing really high-end, high impact pieces, because we’ll have a better quality of storage and more environmental control,” explained Ms Little.
A sculpture – to be called “The Siege of Limerick” – has been commissioned from internationally renowned, New York-based artist Brian O’Doherty to mark the re-opening. The ‘triangular’ sculpture has been funded by the ‘Per Cent for Art’ programme, which allows pieces of art to be commissioned or purchased as a complement to an architectural development.
The finishing touches are now being applied to the historic Carnegie building bordering the People’s Park. Three extensions have been added to the structure in to upgrade facilities for the visiting public and staff.
The premises has been expanded to include a cafe social space, an education / community space and purpose built art storage which will help secure the gallery’s permanent fine art collection.
This week, the gallery and Limerick City Council published a public tender opportunity for a licence to operate a cafe/restaurant in the largest public extension of the building.
The Phase II development, has been funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht through the Access II scheme.
The gallery will shortly announce its programming schedule for its return to the building in the autumn, along with new opening hours, including two late openings and longer opening hours on Sundays. The project was devised by architect John O’Reilly, formerly with the award-winning Murray O’Laoire Architects, with the brief to add light-filled spaces to the gallery.