The afternoon of the opening, the castle is a beehive of activity. All 12 bedrooms are occupied by the artists, as well as curators, collectors, dealers and friends who have flown in. After a boisterous cocktail hour in the gallery, which spills out into the garden, dinner is served in the Great Hall, a grand room that resembles a miniature Houses of Parliament.
London gallerist Iwan Wirth, who represents the Jason Rhoades estate, has great admiration for the Burlingtons’ endeavors. “It displays a deep, intimate commitment to art that museums no longer are able to have,” he says of Lismore Castle Arts. Staying overnight at the castle, he adds, made the experience “a gesamtkunstwerk,” or total artwork. “It was fantastic to relax in my bedroom, admiring a 17th-century tapestry and the Pugin wallpaper while paging though a 1942 Vogue that was lying on a shelf and glimpsing out my window to the river below, with fly fishermen wading through it.”
“We are in a very fortunate position,” says Burlington the next day. “We are not bound in the way that institutions and commercial galleries are. Hopefully, we can offer the artists a chance to do something out of their normal cycle.” But the greatest pleasure for him, it seems, has come from doing his part to expand his family’s artistic legacy. “All my life, this part of the castle has been dead and derelict,” he says. “We are very happy to see life going on in there now.”