MAC art award illustrates a cosmopolitan NI

Jasmina Cibic from Solvenia, winner of the 2016 MAC International Ulster Bank Art Prize, pictured at the MAC in Belfast. Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye

Jasmina Cibic from Solvenia, winner of the 2016 MAC International Ulster Bank Art Prize, pictured at the MAC in Belfast. Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye

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So gradual that it is barely noticeable, life in Northern Ireland gets steadily more varied and more cosmopolitan, writes Ben Lowry.

If you were asked how Belfast had improved in the five-year period 2011 to 2016, it might be hard to explain. Likewise if asked to explain how it improved from 2001 to 2006.

But if you were asked to explain how things have improved since 1986 or even only since 1996, it is easy to say.

The threat of violence is much diminished.

Now there are events such as Culture Night, where thousands of people spill on to the streets, as if in the sort of festival that is common in towns in mainland Europe.

Neither the Waterfront Hall nor the Odyssey Arena existed 20 years ago. Now both are much-loved venues for a wide range of events.

The stylish MAC theatre is a further Belfast arts venue that has opened. I was there on Thursday night when the Welsh singer Charlotte Church announced the winner of an art prize that is trying to put Belfast on the global art circuit.

The MAC International Prize is succeeding in that aim, thanks to a £20,000 award funded by Ulster Bank.This year it was won by Slovenian Jasmina Cibic, for her entry that was described as a combination of “film, performance and installation works”.

The prize had finalists from countries such as Brazil, Morocco and Iceland, who were there on Thursday.

It was wonderful to see them.

A fine evening for Northern Ireland.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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