The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is one of the best museums in Dublin. The collection started from nothing in 1990 and has now grown to over 3,500 pieces by Irish and international artists thanks to a targeted mission to support contemporary art in Ireland. The museum is set in the stunning Royal Hospital Kilmainham, close to the city center.
In addition to the artwork in its galleries, IMMA has many installations located outside on the grounds. This open space also includes formal gardens and wide meadows for walks and picnics on warm Dublin days.
What to Expect at IMMA
The Irish Museum of Modern Art sits a bit outside of central Dublin but the short taxi ride (or LUAS trip) is worth the effort to see the 3,500 works of contemporary and modern art from Irish and international artists. While other national museums offer historic collections of artifacts and artwork, the IMMA offers the country’s most extensive assortment of modern art in Ireland.
The goal of IMMA is to create a space where contemporary life and contemporary art meet, mix, and interact with one another. The museum achieves this by embracing modern art in all its forms, supporting a vibrant Irish art scene with its residency program, and opening its campus to the public to experience the art and grounds.
In addition to an impressive collection of contemporary art from Irish and international artists, the building itself becomes a part of the visit. Located inside the 17th-century Royal Kilmainham Hospital, the structure was modeled on Les Invalides in Paris. It served as a retirement home and clinic for military veterans for more than 250 years before being converted into a public art museum.
The museum is free to visit, so you can experience all the modern treasures without worrying about an entrance fee. Though, keep in mind that the occasional special exhibits usually do require a separate ticket.
What to See
IMMA hosts Ireland’s largest collection of modern art from Irish and Ireland-based artists in the world. The emphasis in the collection is from 1940 onwards and includes a good deal of contemporary works by living artists. Located in the main galleries, these works include abstract paintings, portraits, photography, sculptures from a variety of materials, ceramics, mixed media and more. The searchable online catalog can help visitors identify pieces to visit in person inside the large galleries.
The IMMA collection includes artwork from recognizable international names as well, including Marina Abramović, Joseph Cornell, and Roy Lichtenstein. One of the must-see collection exhibits is dedicated to Lucian Freud, one of the most celebrated realist painters of the 20th century. The British artist spent a good deal of time in Ireland and IMMA is exploring his life’s work in a series of exhibits known as the Freud Project.
There is always something new to see at the Irish Museum of Modern Art because it is in a constant process of acquisition. The museum also displays works which have been donated or loaned from other institution and private collections.
The classic architecture of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham is a wonderful complement to the modern art that lines the building's long, restored corridors. Spend time walking through the internal courtyard to get a sense of the structure, which dates back to 1678.
In addition to the art and architecture, IMMA is set on 48 acres and the grounds are all free to explore. There are formal gardens full of manicured walks and meadows with a variety of plant life which visitors can identify thanks to handy, downloadable guides.
The former stables have been converted into artist studios to host their unique artist-in-residence program. These studios are occasionally open for public visits and make up an important part of the wider IMMA campus.
Be sure to build in time to visit the Old Soldiers House to learn more about the history of the building. The exhibit also gives visitors a glimpse into the way of life at Royal Hospital Kilmainham in the 17th and 18th centuries. Of course, as with much of Ireland, the history here stretches back much further. The small museum also details the history of Viking settlements and a medieval monastery that were set here long ago.
For even more options for exploring the IMMA, check the events page for a list of the children’s workshops, lectures, or special performances that take place throughout the year.
Tips for Visiting
- Free 30-minute tours are available multiple times per week if you would like an introduction to the various exhibits. A schedule is available on the museum's website.
- The museum is fully accessible for visitors with mobility issues.
- IMMA has several recommendations for making the most of the museum with children, including following an art trail that guides visitors through the various sculptures and installations which are placed on the grounds rather than inside the more formal galleries.
- The Kemp Sisters Cafe has homemade cakes and scones, as well as salads and hot meals if you want to eat during your visit. All the food can also be prepared to take away when the weather is nice enough for picnicking on the grounds.
- If you need to connect for any reason, free Wi-Fi is available in the main building.
- The Irish Museum of Modern Art is easy to reach via Dublin public transportation. Simply take the LUAS to Heuston Station. Dublin buses 145, 79 and 79a also go to Heuston Station. The museum is an 8-minute walk from the station.