Having qualified as a medical doctor in Ireland, he embarked on a lengthy career as artist, critic, writer, filmmaker, and educator. During the 1960s, he became a pioneering conceptual artist in New York, and established himself as a prominent proponent of installation art. An intellectual and instinctive theorist, O’Doherty was always inclined towards producing art that addressed such concerns as aesthetic discourse, history, language, the self and art institutions. He dealt regularly in his work with the role of the institution in the display, promotion and elevation of art. Name Change (1972), O’Doherty’s first performance work, marked the artist’s adoption of a distinct artistic persona, Patrick Ireland. He retained this guise, a protest against the killing of civil rights marchers in Derry, until 2008, when he held a symbolic burial of an effigy of Patrick Ireland in the grounds of the IMMA. O’Doherty’s other alter egos included Mary Josephson, under which he contributed to Art in America.
He maintained contact with Ireland, and in 1977, with James Coleman, became one of the first Irish artists to be admitted to the ROSC exhibition.
He is represented in our collection by oil paintings and prints, including the monumental Ogham on Broadway, purchased in 2003, and early portraits of his mother and father, which O’Doherty presented to the Gallery in 2021.
Image: Brian O'Doherty, Portrait of the Artist as a Naked Young Man, 1953. © National Gallery of Ireland.