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Friday, 11 February 2011

For Sale: Post Bubble Rubble...

For sale: the post-bubble rubble. €4,000 or nearest offer...

SMALL PRINT: ON TUESDAY, an intriguing notice appeared in the small ads section on the back page of this newspaper. It read: “Arch for sale. This arch was built by artist Emma Houlihan. It was part of a Nama-related art project and built from the reconstituted rubble of a destroyed Leitrim house. Custom built. Perfect for gardens and spaces. Can function as a sculpture or a functional object.”

There was a number listed to call, for queries about “cost and shipping”.

Emma Houlihan was in Stockholm this week, where a number of interested parties had already called her number, although no solid offers of purchase had so far been made. What is this “arch” she is selling?

“It’s a project I undertook while artist-in-residence for the Leitrim Sculpture Centre last summer,” she says. “It struck me that Leitrim was the ghost estate capital of Ireland, and I wanted to make a piece of art connected with that fact. I was mostly interested in rubble and what could be done with it.”

Houlihan’s budget for a project was €4,500. She had originally hoped to persuade a developer to allow her to demolish an entire ghost estate, and then to move the rubble to Leitrim Sculpture Centre “as a monument to over-development”. This didn’t happen, due to the fact that many such properties in Leitrim are now owned by Nama – which is where the inaccurate reference to that agency in the ad comes from. She did contact Nama, but they did not respond to any of her queries.

“I put an ad in the paper saying I had money to knock down a house in Leitrim,” she says, “but nobody responded”.

In the end, she negotiated with a property developer in Leitrim who had already demolished a house on land he owned, with the intention of then building a new housing estate on it. Once the “economy tanked”, Hamilton says, he did not go ahead with building the estate.

The erstwhile developer gave Hamilton the rubble for free, and she then spent some of her budget casting pieces of it in concrete blocks. “I liked the idea of getting something for free and turning it into art.” In all, there are nine different pieces, which, when assembled, make an eight foot wide archway.

“Right now, it’s in Leitrim on a pallet. The cost is open to negotiation,” she says. “It’d start at €4,000, and I would like it to stay in Leitrim if possible, so that it is being returned to the landscape close to where it came from.” As of yet, there have been no offers.


Report by ROSITA BOLAND - Irish Times

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