The Luan Gallery by Keith Williams Architects, is a new €3.4million contemporary art gallery in Athlone, Co. Westmeath, Ireland. The Luan was formally opened by Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minster for the Dept of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on 29th November 2012. It is the first purpose-built, modern visual art gallery located in the midlands and the first new visual art gallery to be opened in Ireland in over three years. The name ‘Luan’ derives from the Irish for Athlone, ‘Baile Ath Luain’ and was chosen as part of a public competition organised to name the new gallery.
The new 575 m2 dedicated art space is located on a spectacular site overlooking the River Shannon, adjacent to the town’s historic bridge, Athlone Castle and the Catholic Church of St. Peter & St. Paul. The Luan is formed by adapting and remodelling the town’s historic 1897 Father Mathew Hall into a new gallery, and by adding a new wing to provide temporary white box gallery space.
This project has radically altered the existing building with the low grade extensions which had been added over time having been swept away leaving the core building intact. The existing elevations have been modified by the introduction of new large glazed panels opening up the building to the river and the Shannon Bridge. The new build wing has provided contemporary gallery space with black out capabilities to enable multi-use gallery, lecture theatre/ cinema for film exhibitions, meeting space for literature, music, drama workshops, and digital art exhibitions.
The two galleries are linked by a glazed entrance from the main road, and by a linear river gallery facing the Shannon.
The palette of materials for the new gallery wing is limited to limestone and zinc.
Miriam Mulrennan, Manager of Athlone Art and Heritage Ltd, which runs the new gallery as well as Athlone Castle and Abbey Road Artist Studios, said, ”It is wonderful to see the new building come to fruition in the form of this exciting facility. Marrying the existing traditional building with a contemporary, modern wing has resulted in an inspiring space that adds hugely to the landscape of the town.”
Luan Gallery has been established to promote a dynamic contemporary visual art programme of both established and emerging artists and has already developed strong links with Dublin’s Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) enabling it to bring major contemporary art to the regions. The gallery opened with a prestigious exhibition from IMMA featuring the work of national and international artists including Shane Cullen and Daphne Wright.