John was a lovely person. And among other things, he loved art.
I got to know John in the early eighties through his good friend Ruairí Ó Cuív. Ruairí was my History of Art lecturer at what is now the Institute of Technology Sligo.
John and Ruairí founded Art and Exhibition Services, Ireland’s first professional exhibition-installation service. Their first installation at Sligo Art Gallery was in 1982. John continued to visit Sligo regularly, either opening or reviewing exhibitions at the Sligo Art Gallery and the Model Arts and Niland Gallery.
As an art student in Limerick I learned that John’s father was central to the development of Bunratty, Lough Gur and Craggaunowen heritage sites. John had also worked on the Board of the Craggaunowen project in 1975.
I was brought out to Craggaunowen in the darkness of winter, for some great fun and hospitality. The big blue van could transport exhibitions and friends, and return art students to the college in the morning.
John was tall, skinny, attractive and had a ring in his ear. He was intelligent, knowledgeable, articulate, funny and kind.
It was in those days I also met Tris Mooney, whom John later married. They have three children, Jack, Paddy and Miriam.
Back in Sligo, years later, I saw John and his sister Trudy Hunt on the Late Late Show . They had donated their parents’ priceless art collection to the State. I wondered if I would have done the same. John then became instrumental in the establishment of the Hunt Museum, which opened in 1997.
The Sligo connection with Patricia McElhone and Ronan MacEvilly, director of the Sligo Art Gallery, continued. John facilitated the opening of links between the Hunt Museum and the gallery. A selection of the Hunt Collection was exhibited there. John was an adjudicator of the gallery’s renowned annual Iontas Small Works Exhibition . ( Iontas 2004 will be travelling to the Hunt Museum in Limerick.) John would often turn up in Sligo on his motorbike, doing a review for the RTÉ Arts Show or Rattlebag , Lyric FM or CIRCA .
Over the years John had been an Arts Council officer, director of Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, served on the board of the Island Theatre Company; he was chairman of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at the time of his death.
Both in Sligo and throughout the country John continued to buy art from emerging artists as a way of supporting their practice.
Despite his long battle with a serious illness, he travelled to open the Boyle Arts Festival in July. It was one of his last official public appearances.
Hilary Gilligan is an artist based in Co. Sligo
Many of us from the art world in the North-West would like to acknowledge that we are lucky to have had John Hunt around during our lifetime. A gathering to celebrate John Hunt’s life will take place in the Sligo area.