MoLI Celebrates Brendan Behan’s Centenary with New Exhibition

A new exhibition at MoLI, The Holy Hour: A Requiem for Brendan Behan reframes the long-caricatured Dublin writer and goes in search of a truer picture of Behan as a man and as an artist.

Created by author Patrick McCabe (The Butcher BoyBreakfast on Pluto, Poguemahone), the exhibition celebrates the centenary of Behan’s birth, and mourns the essential tragedy of his short life.

In this captivating audio-visual installation, McCabe brings visitors on a profound, often hilarious – and at times almost psychedelic – voyage through glimpses of Behan’s life and work.

Through the prism of the Roman Catholic liturgy, McCabe’s Holy Hour blends archive footage, heavy lashings of music, and Behan’s own words to cast the Dublin writer in a more nuanced light.

The exhibition was announced today, 9 February – 100 years to the day since Brendan Behan’s birth. The announcement accompanied the unveiling of a bronze bust of Brendan Behan by the artist Irene Broe; the bust was sculpted in 1970, and features in The Holy Hour exhibition.

Speaking at the launch, Simon O’Connor, Director of MoLI, said:

“We have long wanted to celebrate the writer Brendan Behan, and to explore his life as an artist and a sensitive thinker, beyond the media depictions and showmanship of his success. To work with Patrick McCabe on this project was to get a privileged glimpse into a similar kind of virtuosity, humour, and sensibility.”

Patrick McCabe, author, and creator of the exhibition, spoke of the exhibition’s approach to Brendan Behan:

“The impulse for The Holy Hour, derives from a remark made by Ian Hamilton, of Hutchinson Ltd, Behan’s first major publisher. Having spent some hours in his company in the Shelbourne Hotel, Hamilton described Behan as ‘God-branded’. I wanted to discover what he meant by that. I think I did, and, hopefully, visitors to The Holy Hour will share in that experience.”

The exhibition opens on Friday, 10 March, and runs until October 2023 at MoLI, UCD Naughton Joyce Centre, Newman House,  86 St Stephen’s Green South, Dublin 2.

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