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'Bewley's belongs to the people' - iconic stained glass to be gifted to state

:: Cafe's wish is that the art stays in situ for people to enjoy, says Campbell​​​​​​

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Retiring Bewley’s owner Paddy Campbell is an accomplished artist himself. Photo: Eugene Langan

Retiring Bewley’s owner Paddy Campbell is an accomplished artist himself. Photo: Eugene Langan

Retiring Bewley’s owner Paddy Campbell is an accomplished artist himself. Photo: Eugene Langan

The iconic stained-glass panels in Bewley's Café on Grafton Street are among valuable artworks set to be donated to the public as owner Paddy Campbell heads into retirement.

Ownership of the decorative glass panels, commissioned by Bewley's from artists including Harry Clarke, Pauline Bewick and Jim Fitzpatrick, has already been transferred to the café's parent company.

It is understood the artworks will be later donated to a " suitable institution" as part of 78-year-old Mr Campbell's retirement wishes.

Heritage

This could potentially afford the parent company a lucrative tax break in the future.

But as an accomplished artist himself, Mr Campbell says his motivation is that the cultural heritage be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

The glass panels will stay in situ on Grafton Street as part of the process.

"Bewley's belongs to the people of Ireland. The Harry Clarke panels, in particular, are a national treasure that we would love to see move into public ownership through a donation to a suitable institution," he said.

Mr Campbell's own works feature as part of the collection, which also includes the decorative stained-glass panels, primarily on display in the Grafton Street café at the moment. The panels are extremely valuable, and are insured for a replacement cost of €2m.

The transfer of ownership will mean that the parent company can now continue to financially support the café into the future.

Bewley's has had a turbulent year as, like other cafés, it was shut down in March when the Government announced national Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

In May, it looked as though the famous venue would remain shut for good with the loss of 110 jobs.

It had been the subject of a protracted legal battle with landlord RGRE, a company controlled by developer Johnny Ronan, over rent arrears.

But in August it was confirmed the café could reopen on a phased basis. Speaking at the time about his high-profile dispute with Mr Ronan over the €1.5m-a-year rent for the iconic cafe, Mr Campbell said it wasn't "personal" but "very much about business".

Now as he prepares for retirement, Mr Campbell said: "My wife Veronica and I are proud of the Bewley's collection which has been built up over many years, bringing great joy to our customers.

"We realise the need to preserve Bewley's unique heritage, which has become an integral part of our culture over the last century.

"Our wish is that the artworks would remain in the Grafton Street premises and be freely accessible to the general public to enable viewing.

"To unlock the value of these artworks for Bewley's Café, their ownership has been transferred to the café's parent company, enabling the parent to continue to financially support the café."

Mr Campbell also paid tribute to the support of customers as the business navigated a difficult year. "We have been overwhelmed by the response," he said.

Buzz

"I will miss the day-to-day buzz, the sounds and the people, but I am happy that we have built on the legacy of art, culture and conversation started by the café's founder Ernest Bewley.

"This café is the beating heart of Dublin, but also at the heart of my own family with three generations - myself, my son and grandson - working here up to now."

Mr Campbell this year became the first non-Italian winner of the Giotto e l'Angelico prize - a prestigious annual award for contribution to cultural life in the Tuscany region.

One of his most striking sculptures, Life and Death, adorns the main piazza of the town of Vicchio.


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