People say that all big cities are alike. In some ways that’s true: the lonely anonymity of a crowd, plumes of diesel exhaust trailing buses down thoroughfares, and the dizzying cacophony of a thousand lives intersecting on a single street corner. But, each big city is also different. In Dublin, beyond the noise and bustle of Fleet Street, you’ll find a network of alleyways boasting some of the best artwork in the city.
Art in the Temple Bar alleyways? I know what you’re thinking: I imbibed one too many pints of Guinness at Oliver St. John Gogarty. Alleyways are full of crumbled trash, heaps of wasted life slumped in doorways, and a Russian criminal element lurking about the shadows, waiting for me—the unsuspecting tourist—to cross their paths. I would be safer sticking to the main street! The Icon Factory and Love the Lanes are working to change that notion, though, by transforming dark passageways into gleaming installations that celebrate Irish culture.
The Icon Walk, a multi-street exhibit with ten different sections, “showcases original artwork by many different local artists of Irish icons from many disciplines including: writers and playwrights, sports icons, musicians, and actors from the performing arts.” I recommend visiting their website and viewing their “before and after” pictures. It’s a collection that would earn Banksy’s tag of approval.
Love the Lanes, a joint initiative between Dublin City Council and Temple Bar Company, also aims to reduce crime and reinvigorate the alleyways. I stumbled upon the tiled wall installation “Love Lane” by Anna Doran last October, and there are others I hope to find when I return in May.
Exercise caution, of course. Don’t go wandering around by yourself in the middle of the night in the name of art; I’m not suggesting that. However, do dare to leave the beaten path during the day and explore the hidden parts of the city. Next time you’re in Dublin, grab your camera and seek these open-air galleries stretched out over a brick canvas in the quieter, not-so-dangerous back alleys of the city.