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Image / Beauty

Renailssance: when Tropical Popical met the National Gallery of Ireland


by Holly O'Neill
18th Jul 2019
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Renailssance opens at the National Gallery of Ireland on Thursday, July 18 until September 12.


From Thursday, July 18, iconic Dublin nail bar Tropical Popical and the National Gallery of Ireland will open Renailssance, an exhibition to showcase the works from their year-long creative partnership.

So how did Andrea Horan’s delicious kitsch meet the National Gallery’s glossy culture?

“The gallery reopened it’s historic wings in 2017,” says Sinéad Rice, Head of Education at the Gallery. “We had this a real opportunity to bring people back to the gallery, to reintroduce them to these spaces that have been transformed and to works that had been hidden away for nearly seven years. We had this stellar show, but they’re 17th century little Dutch paintings and we were wondering how to get that out to a wider audience. A member of the education team said, “what about Tropical Popical?”

Theres is a match made in beauty heaven.

“My remit is to connect the public with this institution, with the paintings that belong to the National collection, to everybody,” says Sinéad. “I want them to be used as inspiration for all sorts of new creative practices. The fact that Andrea had Creative Wednesdays where Tropical Popical would respond to a graphic, an artwork, fashion, I thought that was so interesting. It’s so fresh that their team are constantly finding new ways to interpret something that is not nail art, as nail art.”

“When we’re hiring staff, we don’t just hire a really good nail technician,” says Andrea, CEO of Tropical Popical. “They also have to be the craic and to be creative. They have to be able to deliver on creating works of art. When they are creating pieces for our clients, these people are going to walk out of the salon with mini-masterpieces on their hands. You’re literally wearing art.”

Inside Renailssance

The exhibition is rich with all the Tropical Popical idiosyncracies; electric neons, curved throne chairs, lush green plants galore. A beautiful five-part shoot is showcased in luxurious gold frames, nail art sparkles on hands bursting from a leafy wall, there is a glorious display of intricate, beautiful nails.

“The nail art in this show is directly connected to key works in the Gallery,” says Sinéad.“We have this stunning editorial shoot that Andrea put together with an incredible team with Irish designers. We have labels that are referencing the nails so that people can go and see them in real life. The works that inspired the nail art come from the 15th century right up to things like Joe Caslin’s incredible temporary installation in the courtyard. We also have inspiration from Old Masters, Renaissance works, Baroque art, beautiful watercolours and they’ve all inspired nail art in really broad ways. We have taken elements from Tropical Popical and from the National Gallery and fused them together very much. We have this incredible wallpaper, we have actual casts of Andrea’s hands with nails on them, we have the stunning photographic editorial shoots, we have these beautiful product shots.”

“When you come into the exhibition, the National Gallery has been transformed,” says Sinéad. Andrea pipes in, “we’ve made it Tropical!”

“Renailssance is at the National Gallery of Ireland in The Millenium Wing Studio from Thursday July 18,” says Sinéad. “It’s free and there’s a full public program to support it and we’ve created wearable art with Jill & Gill that you can buy in the gallery shop.”

Andrea pipes in again; “And it’s going to be stunning for getting a little selfie.”

Go behind the scenes at the set-up of Renailssance in the video above. Renailssance is open at the National Gallery of Ireland from July 18 to September 12. It’s open seven days a week and free of charge. Find out more here. 

Photography via the National Gallery of Ireland and Tropical Popical.


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