One of my favourite things about Belfast are the amount of hidden gems there are hidden around the city, and The Mac is one of the best of them. Hidden away in St. Anne’s Square it has played home to collections of greats such as Andy Warhol and has recently been shortlisted for the Art Fund Museum of the Year award.
Opened in 2012 it’s still a relatively new addition to the ever blossoming cultural scene in Belfast and with three art galleries, two theatres, an artist-in-residence studio and workshop spaces it’s definitely helping to ensure it continues to. Not to mention it’s a perfect way to lose an afternoon as you wander around the amazing space, so we picked up our brochures and followed the rainbow.
The current exhibition is curated by Gregory McCartney which explores the end of things; of personal and social empires with art from Adrian Ghenie, Pieter Hugo and Olaf Brzeski. I first found myself in the photos taken by Pieter Hugo which were haunting glimpses into his violent landscape of his native South Africa and I have to say I have never experienced photographs with the ability to conjure such feelings. You truly got a sense of the brutality and conflict that Hugo was trying to convey through the pictures which made me so uncomfortable but thus emphasized it’s brilliance.
The strangeness of the booklet I feel best surmises the atmosphere of the exhibition, with the strangeness of the masked man conveying the other worldliness of the environment of the photo with a slightly eerie, potentially violent inference to be made due to the man’s choice of a mask.
To try and clear our heads we wandered down to the lowered gallery where the vast space was taken up by an explosive sculpture. Olaf Brzeski’s art is described as representing iconic situations having gone awry, such as the below “Dream – Spontaneous Combustion” reflecting Olaf’s attempt to clean out his chimney. Although this explanation renders any possible imaginings harmless, it was hard for me to shake my initial reaction which was noting the marked similarities between the sculpture and the mushroom cloud made by nuclear explosions. Although I am certainly nothing close to any semblance of an authority of art, I’ve always thought that anything that can conjure a genuine human emotional reaction has succeeded and this exhibition, no matter how darkly definitely succeeded in that.
It’s fair to say though that after all that exploring we were physically and emotionally exhausted, and that meant only one thing, brunch! Luckily for us The Mac cafe is often heavily featured as a recommended place to eat in Belfast, and with this spread it’s easy to see why.
After being thoroughly spoilt for choice we decided to stick with the classics (and come back for cakes later). With produce from local farms and bakeries it’s probably one of the most authentic breakfasts you can have in Belfast, and believe me the freshness of the food makes it one of the tastiest. And I bet you can’t guess which breakfast is mine….
Of course I had to go for my ultimate breakfast choice of eggs benedict and it didn’t let me down being one of the tastiest (not to mention prettiest) ones I’ve ever had.
With plenty of food and tea to revive us we discussed what we had seen before finally taking one last look at the beautiful building and heading out to see what the rest of the day had in store for us.
Every time I go to The Mac there is something bold and imaginative to be seen and I can’t recommend it enough even if you’re not an art fan to just pop into the cafe and then have a wander because you never know what you might see.