The History of the Butler Gallery
The Kilkenny Art Gallery Society was founded in 1943 by George Pennefather. He, his wife Helen and Dr. R.A. Walshe, the then CEO, inspired a group, interested in the arts, to start a permanent collection. The aims of the society were to ‘purchase works of art, organise lectures in Kilkenny, to pay the gallery expenses, to insure the paintings and to promote interest in Art generally.’ The Collection was moved into the present gallery provided by the Office of Public Works in Kilkenny Castle in 1976 which was later named ‘Butler Gallery’ to honour Susan Butler for her devoted service to the Kilkenny Art Gallery Society since its formation.
The Kilkenny Art Gallery is unique in Ireland. In the Butler Gallery it has one of the finest exhibition spaces in the country. The gallery serves not only as a particularly handsome and versatile venue for visiting touring shows, but also originates some formidable exhibitions itself. In amassing its impressive, representative collection of nineteenth and twentieth century Irish art, the Society has also benefited enormously from numerous gifts, loans and, in recent years from the Arts Council joint purchase Scheme. As with all of its activities, the Society has assembled its collection with the minimum of financial resources. The Butler Gallery itself is funded by an Arts Council grant. Any income generated goes directly into purchases for its collection.
Kilkenny Art Gallery Society is a model of what enthusiastic commitment can achieve. Its collection, built on modest means, provides a creditable account of the evolution of 20th century art in Ireland, and its exhibitions have put Kilkenny firmly on the artistic map. Most importantly, it provides proof positive that regional organisations have a major part to play not only in terms of their own environment, but in enriching the cultural life of the country as a whole.
The Butler Gallery is located in the heart of medieval Kilkenny City. The gallery is actually positioned within Kilkenny Castle. To visit us simply go through the Castle gates and follow the signs. Whilst with us why not take the time to discover the story behind the castle – one of Ireland’s most revered landmarks. Enjoy the Butler Gallery, Kilkenny Castle, the Castle grounds, rose garden and tea rooms – all in one visit!
After much work and dedication by the Butler Gallery staff, the Gallery was awarded Full Museum Accreditation in 2008 from The Heritage Council of Ireland’s Museum Accreditation Scheme for excellence in Caring for Collections, Museum Management, and Exhibition, Education and Visitor Services. This is a giant step forward and a serious achievement for the Butler Gallery. This award acknowledges our work and the standards we are achieving while encouraging us to achieve best practice in all that we do.