Brian O'Doherty

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Brian O'Doherty

(1928-05-04) 4 May 1928 (age 94)
Spouse(s)Barbara Novak

Brian O'Doherty (born 4 May 1928) is an Irish art critic, writer, artist, and academic. He has lived in New York City for more than 50 years.[1] He has used a number of alter egos, including Patrick Ireland.

Early life and education[edit]

He was born at Ballaghaderreen in County Roscommon in 1928, and grew up in Dublin.[1] He studied medicine at University College Dublin, and did post-graduate work at Cambridge University and at the Harvard School of Public Health.[2]

Early career[edit]

He spent a year working in a cancer hospital in 1957 before devoting himself full-time to the visual arts. Speaking of his experience after Harvard:

I first spent a year at Harvard when I came in 1957, doing all kinds of research. I got an MSc there, but I didn’t learn much. I switched from all things medical. I auditioned for a job as a television presenter at the Museum of Fine Arts from the Boston public television station, WGBH—TV. I would do a half-hour each week from the galleries on the museum collections, also interviews with artists – Marc Chagall, Jacques Lipchitz, Josef Albers, Walter Gropius, among others.[3]


In the 1960s, he was an art critic for the New York Times. He commissioned Roland Barthes to write his "Death of the Author" essay for a special edition of Aspen magazine in 1967.[4] He has also been an editor of Art in America and an on-air art critic for NBC.

Mid-career,[4] O'Doherty began signing his work under the name "Patrick Ireland" in reaction to the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry in 1972. For many years, O'Doherty was an influential member of the senior staff of the National Endowment for the Arts, first as director of the Visual Arts Program, and subsequently as director of the Media Arts Program, where he was responsible for the creation of such major public television series as American Masters and Great Performances. He is the author of numerous works of art criticism, including his book American Masters and the influential book Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space (1976), a series of essays first published in Artforum.[4] In the latter book he discusses and invents[citation needed] the term for the contemporary gallery space. He has also written novels: The Strange Case of Mademoiselle P. (1992), the 2000 Booker Prize-nominated The Deposition of Father McGreevy (1999), and The Crossdresser's Secret (2014). He had a retrospective at Dublin's Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in 2005.[4]

On 20 May 2008, in recognition of the progress for peace in Ireland, O'Doherty ceremoniously buried his alter ego at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, and resumed being called by his birth name.[5][6]

In 2018, at the age of 90, O’Doherty was the subject of three exhibitions celebrating his work in his native Ireland, including the restoration of the room sized “One Here Now” installation he created at the Sirius Arts Centre in Cork in 1995-96.[7]

In The modern art collection, Trinity College Dublin, David Scott writes that:

Much influenced by Marcel Duchamp he is an essentially interrogative artist, constantly questioning artistic conventions and the assumptions on which we base our aesthetic judgements.

Personal life[edit]

For more than 30 years, O'Doherty has been married to art historian and former chair of the Art History department at Barnard College, Barbara Novak. He lives and works in the United States.


  1. ^ a b Ciarán Benson (2011). No sad imperialist of the aesthetic self. The Dublin Review of Books 17 (Spring 2011). Archived 3 June 2014.
  2. ^ [s.n.] (1 June 1997). Brian O'Doherty: University Professor of Fine Arts and Media Southampton College of Long Island University. Long Island University. Accessed January 2014.
  3. ^ Bui, Phong (June 2007). "In Conversation: Brian O'Doherty with Phong Bui". Brooklyn Rail.
  4. ^ a b c d "Public Spectacle: Mark Godfrey and Rosie Bennett Talk to Brian O'Doherty". Frieze. 2004. p. 56.
  5. ^ Irish Artist to "Bury" Alter Ego, ARTINFO, 6 May 2008, retrieved 14 May 2008
  6. ^ Kimmelman, Michael (22 May 2005), "Patrick Ireland, 36, Dies; Created to Serve Peace", The New York Times, retrieved 22 May 2008
  7. ^ Wilkinson, Judith (10 May 2018), "I Am Now a Saint": Brian O’Doherty Turns 90, Frieze, retrieved 24 April 2019

Further reading[edit]

  • Brenda Moore-McCann, "Brian O'Doherty/Patrick Ireland: Between Categories," Lund Humphries, London, 2009.
  • Brian O'Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, (1976), Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999
  • Brian O'Doherty, Beyond the Ideology of the White Cube. MACBA: Barcelona, 2009.
  • David Scott (1989), The modern art collection, Trinity College Dublin. Dublin: Trinity College Dublin Press. ISBN 1-871408-01-6

External links[edit]