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Siobhán Hapaska, Medici Lion

The Douglas Hyde is delighted to present a major solo exhibition by renowned Irish-Parsee artist Siobhán Hapaska. Over the past three decades, Hapaska has created original and formally complex work, which defies categorization. She is a singular voice in contemporary sculpture, consistently pushing the convention of form and materials while astutely probing conflict, faith and the human condition. Having exhibited extensively internationally, including co-representing Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 2001, Medici Lion is her first institutional solo exhibition in the Republic and brings an ambitious new body of work developed over the past three years.

Hapaska presents a newly commissioned sculptural body of work which uses the figure of the lion to explore current crises, from the failures of democracy to ongoing conflict and wars, and the ever-present Climate crisis. Reflecting ideas of shifting power and loss, at the centre of the exhibition is a large-scale lion which extends to over four metres and is fractured in form. A universal and persistent symbol of power, the lion has prolonged associations of justice, strength, courage and military might. Here at The Douglas Hyde, Hapaska’s lion will be suspended at the centre of the cavernous, double-height space of Gallery 1, tethered to the gallery’s walls. With its paw extended, in the tradition of the Albani and Medici Lions,[1] the held sphere (reflecting world domination) will be displaced. Incorporating ambient sound captured at Westminster Abbey while Queen Elizabeth II lay in State, Hapaska employs the emotional resonance of this sonic element as an expanded sculptural layer to the work.

Throughout her career, Hapaska has expanded the formal boundaries of sculptural practice. Employing a wide range of disparate materials – including concrete, cloth, fur, plant material and mechanics – through unusual and incongruous combinations, she looks to the emotional charge of materials and form. The artist states, “I like ideas that are adrift”; preferring to suggest rather than dictate an audience’s interaction with her work.

Though they carry a sense of disquiet, Hapaska’s works are always a testament to the perseverance of hope, desire and longing in the face of adverse global conditions and political or spiritual unrest. Her sculptures are often undershot with a dark wit, a playfulness, and a devotion to physical objects as transmitters of empathy and emotion. As critic Helen Sumpter has written, “the ability of Hapaska’s work to insert itself into the consciousness on so many levels, and that in any climate of uncertainty, work that can engage the eyes, the emotions and the intellect is more vital than ever.”[2]

[1] Medici lions refers to a pair of marble sculptures of lions who majestically sat guarding the steps to the Villa Medici in Rome in the late sixteenth century. One dates to the second century CE and the other was commissioned as its pendant by Ferdinando I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Their copies can be found in France, Sweden, Britain, Russia, Ukraine, Italy, Germany, Cuba, the United States, Estonia, Lithuania, France, and Hungary.

[2] Helen Sumpter, “Siobhán Hapaska “, Art Review, October 2016, p.80.


Siobhán Hapaska in conversation with Georgina Jackson

2 December, 12:00–13:00

The Douglas Hyde is delighted to present a walk-through of the exhibition Medici Lion where artist Siobhán Hapaska and our Director, Dr Georgina Jackson, will discuss some of the themes, subject matter, histories and ideas of the work on show.

This is a free event, but booking is required and tickets are limited. Click here for further information.


Siobhán Hapaska, Medici Lion