Cork Opera House's famous Toyota signs to get a new lease of life

Cork Opera House's famous Toyota signs to get a new lease of life
The former Toyota sign at Cork Opera House.

Letters that once dominated the Cork city skyline are to get a new lease of life as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival.

The National Sculpture Factory (NSF) on Albert Road and Cork Opera House have joined forces with the festival organisers to offer a commission using the former Toyota roof signs on the well-known venue.

The Toyota signs were originally hung in the 1980s, as part of a partnership deal between the motor company and Cork Opera House.

The signs appeared on three sides of the Opera House fly tower – north, east and west, making them visible on the city skyline from a number of angles.

Letter from the former Toyota sign at Cork Opera House.
Letter from the former Toyota sign at Cork Opera House.

The large perspex and aluminium letters, each approximately 4ft high by 3.5ft wide attracted some negative commentary when first installed but went on to become iconic fixtures in the Cork cityscape and local folklore.

Head of Programmes at the NSF, Dobz O'Brien, said the new commission is intended to celebrate the long-standing relationship.

“These letters came to be a historic part of the cityscape,” he said. “Artists are really good at recycling and upcycling so we really look forward to seeing what someone can do with them.” 

The successful artist will have use of the remaining letters from the TOYOTA signs (roughly 14 letters and one logo) and a production budget of €2,500.

They will also be given studio space at the NSF to prepare their project and any other technical support they need.

The artwork is to be displayed during the Midsummer Festival, with the location determined by the design of the finished piece.

While the competition is open nationally and internationally, Mr O’Brien feels a Cork artist might do best justice to the letters’ history.

“I would love to see what someone who knew the signs, and how they were part of the city for years, will come up with,” he said.

The competitions is not limited to sculptors and visual artists. Mr O’Brien would be delighted to see applications from other artists such as dancers or set designers who have imaginative ideas for the raw materials.

Dorothy Cross, one of Ireland's leading international artists, is on the panel of judges. Born in Cork, Ms Cross studied at Crawford College of Art & Design and has exhibited nationwide.

Artists have until March 29 to apply and can find out more at www.nationalsculpturefactory.com.

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