Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger – an exhibition of the world’s largest collection of Famine-related art – is shown for the first time in Ireland. The collection, from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, constitutes a direct link to the past of almost 6.5 million Irish, and 40 million Irish-American people. The death and dispersion of 2 million people, followed by a further 2 million emigrations to the end of the century, makes this an important gesture of cultural reconnection.
The impact of the Famine is still with us. The challenge in the 21st century is to find ways to remember a past that shaped the present. Through this exhibition, both the gaps and the connections in Irish and diasporic history and memory raise important historic and contemporary issues of poverty, displacement and violence, as well as of class, gender and identity, through the lens of art. From Romanticism to post-modernism, the exhibition spans 170 years, and features work by leading Irish and Irish-American artists. The unprecedented calamity paralleled a crisis in representation. Successive generations sought to register the enormity of what happened visually, while grappling with rapid stylistic change that resisted traditional representation.