Cowen Pictures — RHA Gallery Did Not Complain to Gardai

We sent our standard provocative email to Patrick Murphy, director of the RHA gallery:

we propose to publish an article shortly, ridiculing you personally for your lack of humour, lack of perspective and absence of artistic understanding in referring the Conor Casby affair to an Garda Siochana.

It seems fair to offer you the opportunity to comment in advance of publication.

Patrick is an admirable fellow, as it turns out, and replied as follows:

Free country, free speech work away.

Casby’s Cowan caricature  was on view in our portrait gallery for 20mins on the afternoon of Saturday March 7th. We simply removed it and put it on a shelf in the office.

It was not until the Sunday Tribune on March 22 and the subsequent RTE coverage on Monday that the RHA was implicated in the event. We did not approach the Garda, they actually approached us by calling to say they wished to take a statement and remove the pieces.

By the way bit ironic isn’t it that you intend “ridiculing you personally for your lack of humour, lack of perspective and absence of artistic understanding in referring… “

Always thought the best satire was based on fact, 

He’s right of course.  We were winding him up as we have done with many others, and we sent him a note of apology for taking the piss.

But look what he has to tell us.

The RHA did not complain to the Gardai.  The Gardai called to the gallery after the Tribune article and said they wanted to take a statement and remove the painting.

So there you go.  The Guards were acting, it seems, on political instruction, and not on a complaint from the gallery.

Now then.  What do you make of that?

The only possible offence involved in this whole matter is trespass,and the RHA did not complain to the police about such an offence, although the National Gallery did, it seems.

So therefore, since no offence was reported at the RHA, why were the Gardai there at all, why did they want a statement and why did they seize Conor Casby’s painting?


All Bock posts on Cowen HERE

33 thoughts on “Cowen Pictures — RHA Gallery Did Not Complain to Gardai

  1. I always assumed it was the National Gallery, because didn’t the Guards only get their hands on one of the paintings – the one that was bubbled wrapped and held by the detecive who went to Today FM?

    I’m losing track though – have you already provocatively emailed the National Gallery?

  2. According to yesterday’s Tribune Casby hung his first painting in the National Gallery on March 7th, and his 2nd in RHA on March 8th. On March 9th a “source” in the National Gallery contacted the Tribune and the story broke. The National Gallery DOES seem to have contacted the guards (as is, apparently, standard practice after such a “security breach”). Just trying to clarify the timeline.

    I don’t recall reading anything that suggested that the RHA had contacted the guards – but I guess most people just assumed they had. So was the 2nd painting held in the RHA from the 8th until after the original Tribune article? Looks like it was.

    All very interesting…

  3. Yes. According to Patrick Murphy, director of the gallery, the painting was left in his gallery on the 7th and he very sensibly put it in an office and forgot about it until the 22nd, when the plods arrived.

    Why were they in the RHA, who had made no complaint? Who sent them to the RHA?

  4. Well Casby apparently emailed the Tribune as well (using an alias) to tell them about both paintings. I think this was the first time the connection was made clear (and possibly the first time anyone outside of the RHA and those in on the prank knew about the 2nd painting). That allowed the Tribune to run the story and SOMEONE then instructed the guards to go to the RHA and recover the 2nd painting. That’s what it looks like to me. What it all means it another issue…

  5. Why were the Gardai in the RHA about a possible trespass in the National Gallery?

    Do you think they’d devote so many resources if somebody trespassed in your garden?

  6. Fustar

    I seem to recall several FF “persons” stating that the Gallery (which gallery – I don’t know) called the guards. My interpretation of the statements was that they seemed to be attempting to distance FF and AnT from the abuse of power accusations.

    Think I heard one of the FF “persons” on George Hook show last week!

  7. Well the FF-ers were right in the sense that the national Gallery definitely did (or so it appears!) call the Guards. This, they said, was standard practice. That’s all fairly ho-hum. The guards only seem to have realised that the RHA had been similarly trespassed upon after the Tribune article (and this seems to be down to Casby’s own email to the Tribune!).

    It’s the Tribune article that’s key. That made it public, made some people angry, and led to the guards being told to go to the RHA and get the 2nd painting. Between the incident in the National Gallery (reported to the guards) and the Tribune article NOTHING, it seems, was done. Why? Because it wasn’t public and no-one cared!

  8. So why did the cops go to the RHA?

    Let’s be absolutely clear: the only possible offence involved in this matter is trespass, and the RHA did not report a trespass.

  9. The cops went to RHA because the Tribune article made clear a connection to the National Gallery incident that they’d known about for 2 weeks. Now you could either argue that this was part of an ongoing investigation (and they were merely following a lead on their own initiative), OR, that the Tribune article caused ructions and someone gave them a toe in the hole and told them to get out to RHA sharpish.

    The fact that nothing at all seems to have been done with the National Gallery file in 2 weeks suggests the latter.

  10. Just edited the comment to hint at answer! Tribune article yesterday seems to agree – suggesting that the National Gallery incident had been all but forgotten till the (original) Tribune story. This favours the toe up the hole theory.

  11. You’d have to question why the RHA did not complain to PC O’Plod, not the other way around.

    Face it, if you popped out to cross swords with Uncle Arthur and then arrived home to find a painting of a fat fuck holding his shorts on your wall – and another of him taking a dump – and you didn’t put them there – then you might be inclined to sing to yourself courtesy of David Byrne, “this is not my beautiful house”.

    You might be inclined to call the cops – they’d have records of the phantom portrait hangers on their compooooters.

    “All in all tis just another prick on your wall,” they’d sing as they launched an investigation.

    Failure to call the cops could encourage the culprits. Next time out they could hang a picture of something really obscene over the fireplace – a montage of someone from Angola Irish Bank loading one into Mary Harney for instance -and their little piggy tails twitching.

    Or a painting of the deformed pygmy Louie Walsh. Watch your walls folks. Eternal viligence is but the small price we must sacrifice on the alter of freedom.

  12. Abdul the word picture you painted cracked me up. I have not laughed so much in years. I can not get the image of curly tails twitching out of my head. Well done . Poor Biffo would not be amused, nor would the thought Police.

  13. Gary, tis the Guinness what’s responsible. If you are from Luimneach then their is an ornament of pigs “oinking” each other in the window of a butchers shop straight across from the market. It’s priceless.

    I told the kids they were making sausages, which is technically correct….

    Meantime, psychiatrists ask their patients what is the first thing that comes into their minds when they show certain images. I challange you not to think of our Minister for Health if you go window shopping in that area.

  14. I just watched a re-run of the Late Late and they had a heated discussion about the Cowen pictures.

    As I have been suffering from insomnia and also haven’t left the house in a couple of weeks, watching old movies instead of the shite on tv…I hadn’t a clue what they were on about.

    I just googled them and saw the 2 caricatures, TWO caricatures. I am even more disheartened with this country than two weeks ago and have shovel in hand to dig another feet deeper after this latest pile of shit churned out by the b****x that is Pat Kenny. How could you for a minute give this air time? They gave him plaudits and rapturous applause when he announced he was leaving and by Jesus I was a happy man not that I am an avid viewer but merely it may now be an otion for Friday nights. He is a sensationalist and a gossiper.

    Anyhow back to the Cowan incident. I watched reeling in the years 1991 the other night and the furore over Virgin record store in Dublin selling condoms. The responsible society were flabergasted and outraged in the form of an ageing nun. For f**k sake. We know what the catholic church did for us, oppression is one word I would use.

    We had more of it tonight in the form of Mary whatever her name is former minister for talking through her nose and some gobshite from UCD. This is not a newsworthy story. it was a tired attempt to stir shit where the stick would have been used far more industriously being broken off Kennys head.

    I am leaving here in July and I can’t fukin wait.

  15. …They’re talking about it on Q&A’s now! I’d love to slap the gimpish looking lad who asked the question. A daughter of a responsible Society subscriber no doubt.

  16. Bock 19.
    Whoa. Are we having a bad day?
    Stream of consciousness conversations eventually get back on line. Surely there’s always room for a flight of fancy…
    Well done Abdul, (and Gary), from this lad down under.

  17. Is our Government any better then the Islamic Fundamentalists who complained about the Mohammad Cartoons? What next, attacks on the offices of foreign businesses. FF have become more dictator than democrat.

  18. The gardaí, people, is an institution with all the ability to behave in a normal human manner that all institutions posses, which is not at all.
    A garda cannot behave other than as instructed. Thinking is not allowed in that place.
    Hence the stupid shit.
    Also, the political influence and control over that institution of the State is total. Politics being completely and wholly corrupt, not capable of honesty is a huge part of this art story.

  19. That’s the real issue here. The waters have been muddied so as to make this about Casby’s actions, or the the artistic merits of th painting or the news worthiness of the story.
    The real issue is the use of political pressure to censure an unflattering portrayal of the leader of the political party in power.
    Today it’s a painting but tomorrow it could be something else. Caricatures, as someone pointed out elsewhere on the site, are also generaly unflattering, and then what? Articles on corruption, incompetence etc.

    The issues for me are censurship of a news story which could create a trend of the powers that be (or at least are seen to be) deciding what constitutes a news worthy story,
    And the misuse of governmental power.

  20. Good point by No 8 above in relation to the Islamic fun -da -mental -ists. Maybe the artist is declaring a Fat-ah on Fianna Fail. My view is that he (the artist) is entitled to exhibit his paintings – but only at his exhibition. We have to draw the line at artists running amok and hijacking other exhibitions. For instance, what if our beloved “Sisters of Mercy – and of never having any acquaintance of the baldy man with the one eye” were to hold a exhibition of holeeee pictures – all blessed by the bishops helmet. And what if some depraved fucker were to sneak in there in the dead of night and nail a pic of, as above, the CEO of Angola Irish bank with his snout buried in the Minister for Health’s trough – and their little piggy tails still a twitching – pic strategically positioned between the Angel Gabriel and St Francis of whatyoucall to provoke maximum umbrage. They’d be blessing themselves repeatedly then, like cardinals on speed. But would this not be unacceptable folks? To paraphrase the Blessed Virgin, “would this not be fucking outrageous”?

  21. -Abdul
    No. 8 compared the government to islamic fundamentalists, not the artist, but I get your point. I find the image of the CEO of Angola Irish bank with his snout buried in the Minister for Health’s trough to be fucking outrageous. Good god man but your mind must go to some dark places.

  22. Does anybody think that the paintings are in fact really good paintings from a purely artistic pov. With all the brouhaha nobody has commented on what fine work it is and that perhaps they belong in a gallery, and perhaps the subject should delighted with the workmanship and obvious effort taken over them. anybody?

  23. I think that they are great! Vincent Van Gough never sold a single painting in his lifetime because he was ahead of the “fashion” of his time. Some years ago a Japanese Company paid millions for his “Sunflowers” and had a purpose built Gallery to show it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  24. Also Conor Casby will now be a celeb in the art world, his paintings will probably sell quite well (Im not informed here, but Im presuming he was quite anonymous ((?)) Im delighted he will probably go on to make a decent living. Im just trying to find the positive, we need more people to try to generate the positive vibes in these difficult times!

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