Sean's Spiral

Artist Name(s) Richard Serra
Artwork title Sean's Spiral
Context/Background ROSC (1967-1988) was a series of international exhibitions held in Dublin between 1967 and 1988. ROSC translates roughly as the poetry of vision and was founded by architect Michael Scott.
  • The first ROSC exhibition was held in 1967, in the modern art section at the RDS and the ancient Celtic art display at the National Museum. A three-man international jury, made up of arts administrators and writers, chose works by fifty artists on the international modern art scene, that had been completed within the previous four years, including Picasso, Joan Miro, Francis Bacon and Willem de Kooning.
  • The second ROSC (1971) was held at the RDS including both modern art and Viking Age art displays.
  • The third ROSC (1977) displayed the modern art section at the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, and early animal art at the National Museum
  • The fourth ROSC (1980) showed the modern section at the School of Architecture, University College Dublin, and Chinese art at the National Gallery of Ireland. ROSC '80 was saved by the late intervention of Guinness Peat Aviation (a company unrelated to Guinness), which provided a subsidy of £55,000 in return for a high profile in publicity relating to the exhibition.
  • The fifth ROSC (1984) devoted to contemporary art, was shown at the Guinness Hop Store.
  • The sixth and final ROSC (1988) included the modern art section at the Guinness Hop Store and a display of Russian avant-garde art at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.
Other smaller associated ROSC shows included:
  • Irish Art 1900-50 at the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork (1975?6)The Irish
  • Imagination 1959-71 at the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art (1971);

ROSC’84 - Jury Selection 

ROSC’84 was shown at the Guinness Hop Store, Rainsford Street, Dublin from 19 August-17 November 1984. It showcased the work of fifty-two artists: Forty-two of these comprised the international section, ten were Irish. An exhibition of the drawings of Joseph Beuys was mounted in the Guinness Visitors' Centre across the road. Following surveys of Irish work, the jury recommended that none be included in the exhibition. They felt that it wasn't of sufficient stature to stand beside the European and American artists they had already selected. The Executive Committee decided that it would establish an Irish jury to select ten Irish artists. The Irish jury, working on the basis of an initial list of fifty names, could not agree on the short-listing process, recommending twenty-two artists for inclusion in the show. The Committee rejected this suggestion, on the basis that neither the space nor the finance was available to accommodate such a high Irish presence, which resulted in the resignation of Michael Kane, who perceived a fundamental divide in Irish art between establishment modernism and a vernacular Irish modern tradition. This was followed by the resignation of the remaining jury members, and the withdrawal of sponsors such as Guinness Peat Aviation. The executive committee devised another selection procedure for the Irish section, appointing a single juror, Ronald Tallon, of the architectural firm Scott, Tallon, Walker. Frits Becht later resigned from the International Jury due to his uncompromising stance on the issue of Irish representation, followed by six of the seven selected Dutch artists withdrawing from the exhibition. Rosc suffered other losses from its international selection, for a variety of reasons. ROSC '84 had programmed a special exhibition of recent sculpture and drawings by Henry Moore, but this also fell through when representatives of the artist visited the proposed venue. An exhibition of Joseph Beuys’ drawings replaced the Henry Moore show, mounted in the Guinness Visitors' Centre across the road.

Sean's Spiral (1984) is a steel, triangular-spiral sculpture, which was embedded into the cobblestoned road outside the main entrance to the former Guinness Hop Store (now The Digital Exchange) on Rainsford Street, Dublin in 1984, as a commission for that year's ROSC exhibition. The sculpture incorporated the motif carved into the wall of a tomb at Newgrange 5000 years ago. The sculpture is alleged to have been named after Sean Mulcahy – a structural engineer and friend of Serra, who was involved in the project.

Rather than a triangular formation, Serra’s original design consisted of two steel circles, sixteen feet in diameter, integrated into the road’s surface. The road was closed by Corporation workers, who dug the foundations, laid a cement bed and installed the sculpture under Serra’s supervision.

Serra was quoted as saying “What was very disheartening here is that I had an idea for making a circular piece in the street... a circle within a circle with a conjunction which I hadn’t done before. The people told me that they could build that, that with an 8” flange they could bend the steel into a circle. As it turned out, after telling me for a week that they could do it and ordering the material they couldn’t do it. I was fit to be tied! I had a 160-foot of material and they couldn’t bend it. I had the street open with people waiting for me to do something and about a day and a half to come up with an answer... I’m not going to know until the piece is actually embedded in the ground in the cobblestone there.”

Young Rosc 1984 Catalogue, p.11, cited in Sean Lynch’s ‘The Use and Abuse of Monuments’ (2011)


Sean Lynch ‘The Use and Abuse of Monuments’, 2011

Publications & Press - Rosc’84

Rosemarie Mulcahy, Rosc ‘84 Catalogue (Dublin: Heinz Ireland, 1984) Provenance - The Mary Boydell Collection, National Library of Ireland Catalogue

Rosemarie Mulcahy, Young Rosc '84 Catalogue (Dublin: Heinz Ireland, 1984) Provenance - The Mary Boydell Collection, National Library of Ireland Catalogue

Marie Bourke ‘Learning in the Context of Irish Museums’ in LEARNING IN MUSEUMS, Proceedings of the symposium held on 1 November 2002 at The National Gallery of Ireland. Series No 4, p.p. 39-53.

Joan Fowler ‘The making of Rosc '84 (or the struggle to succeed)’, Circa, issue 18, September/October 1984

Róisín Kennedy ‘The Irish Imagination 1971 – Stereotype or Strategy’, Journal of Art Historiography, Number 9, December 2013

Aidan Dunne ‘ROSC 84: The Politics of Vision’, 1 September 1984.

Brian Fallon, 'ROSC '84: an exercise in time and space', Irish Times, 25 August 1984.

Sven- Claude Bettinger, ‘ROSC’84’, Irish Arts Review, Autumn 1984


Born in San Francisco in 1938, Richard Serra is one of the most significant artists of his generation. His groundbreaking sculpture explores the exchange between artwork, site, and viewer. His bodies of work in sculpture and drawing have been celebrated with retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art twenty years apart: ‘Richard Serra/Sculpture’ (1986) and ‘Richard Serra Sculpture Forty Years’ (2007). Other major recent exhibitions include ‘Richard Serra Drawings: Work Comes Out of Work’, Kunsthaus Bregenz (2008); ‘Richard Serra Drawings: A Retrospective’, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2010) travelling to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Menil Collection, Houston in 2012). Serra has produced large-scale, site-specific sculptures for architectural, urban and landscape settings spanning the globe, from Iceland to New Zealand. In addition to the eight-part permanent installation The Matter of Time, conceived for the Guggenheim Bilbao in 2005, Serra presented Promenade for MONUMENTA, Grand Palais, Paris in 2008.

(Courtesy of the Gagosian Gallery, New York)

Commission Type The Arts Council
Commissioner Name ROSC '84
Commissioning process Curated Panel Selection - International and Irish Juries (see Context section for details)
Partners Guinness provided the building to house the 1984 ROSC exhibition. The Hop Store (est. 1879–1882) in Rainsford Street, was a solidly built, four-storey Victorian warehouse that had been lying idle for the last twenty-five years. In addition to the building, Guinness met the majority of the conversion costs, employing architect Ronald Tallon to convert the building into an art gallery space. Guinness Peat Aviation, who had expressed an interest in underwriting the costs of producing the exhibition catalogue (which could have cost up to £40,000), pulled out of Rosc’84 after the Irish Jury controversy. The Tony O'Reilly Corporation subsequently met the costs of producing the catalogue.  An additional £100,000 was pledged by the government, £50,000 as an EEC grant (towards the conservation of the building as part of Ireland’s industrial heritage), and another £50,000 from the Arts Council.
Artform Visual Arts
Funded By Private,The Arts Council,European Funding
Location On the road outside the main entrance to The Guinness Hop Store, on the intersection of Bellevue, Crane Street and Rainsford Street
County Dublin
Town Dublin 8
Content contributor(s) Web Editor
Relationship to project
Public engagement

The street-level installation of the artwork was depicted in a cartoon by Martin Turner which appeared in The Irish Times on 7th July 1984. It featured city manager Frank Feely and two workmen. A pun about the ‘minimalist’ work ethic of the Corporation workmen correlated with sculpture’s Minimalist genre, while a play on the artist’s surname was incorporated into the song Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be), suggestive of the mystery or perceived confusion surrounding the sculpture.

(Documented in Sean Lynch's 'The Use and Abuse of Monuments' (2011)

Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Sean Mulcahy – Structural Engineer

Frank Feely – Dublin City Manager

Michael Scott – Founder of ROSC

Patrick J. Murphy – Managing director of Irish Malt Exports Ltd., Art collector and chair of ROSC’s executive committee

Ronald Tallon – Architect of the firm Scott, Tallon, Walker, responsible for the conversion work on the Hop Store (employed by Guinness)

Tony O 'Reilly - Chief Executive of Fitzwilton

Vincent Ferguson - Chairman of Dublin Gas, Arts Council officer and (following the death of David Hendriks) he became the owner of the Hendriks Gallery on Stephen's Green

Cecil King hung the artworks for ROSC’84

Rosemarie Mulcahy compiled the ROSC’84 catalogue and ROSC’84 children’s catalogue

Executive Committee:

Peter Doyle, Kenneth McQuillan, Rosemarie Mulcahy, broadcaster Mike Murphy, Noel Wallace, Michael Scott and Noel Sheridan (director of the National College of Art and Design). Vincent Ferguson later joined following the resignation of Frits Becht.

Irish Jury (who later resigned):

Patrick Murphy, Michael Scott, Patrick Scott, the painter and designer Noel Sheridan, and artist and writer Michael Kane.

International Jury (assigned to select the show):

Patrick Murphy, Michael Scott and two European collectors, Frits Becht of Holland (who later resigned) and Count Guiseppe Panza di Biumo of Italy



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