Shane Cullen The Agreement 2002.

A Beaconsfield commission to commemorate the signing of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement reached in the multi party negotiations of 1998

The Agreement is a sculptural work by Dublin-based artist Shane Cullen, conceived to commemorate the signing of the Anglo-Irish Peace Agreement of 1998. The work presents the full text of the document known as the ‘Good Friday’ or ‘Belfast’ Agreement, in a clear and comprehensible manner: 11,500 words digitally routed into 55 HDU panels, each panel 3.5m x 1.22m, total length 67m.

The text begins “We the participants in the multi-party negotiations, believe that the agreement we have negotiated offers a truly historic opportunity for a new beginning…” The 11,500 words are mechanically carved into HDU (High-Density Urethane) board using an advanced digital process. The artist conceived The Agreement as a democratic gesture to recover ownership of a landmark public document.

The complexity and legal nature of the ‘Good Friday’ or ‘Belfast’ Agreement makes it awkward for public consumption. At the time of the negotiations, a leaflet containing the complete text of the peace agreement was distributed to every Irish household for the public’s consideration. The same document has had minimal exposure in England. Public exhibition of The Agreement will make this significant information accessible in a new way, whilst claiming the validity of the work as an art object.

The text is fixed and its meaning will change with the context in which it is presented, shifting according to the cultural and political climate in which it is viewed. The Agreement is commissioned by Beaconsfield Contemporary Art, London and sets a collaborative precedent with financial support from the Arts Councils of England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The work has been exhibited  in key cities represented by all three governments.

A series of debates curated as part of each exhibition contributes to the body of public opinion expressed during these critical years of the peace process. Transcripts from the debates will form the basis of a publication  relating the varying local perspectives to a wider international debate and reflect opinion to be found in all participating cities. Commissioned essays will explore avenues such as the historical relationship between politics and art and the potential to engage the public in social reflection through cultural means.

Photo above: Former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Dr Mo Mowlem and artist Shane Cullen view The Agreement in June 2003. Arch space, Beaconsfield London.




UK AND REPUBLIC OF IRELAND TOUR 2002-2004: Dublin, Derry, Belfast, London, Portadown, Kilkenny.


DUBLIN. Curated by Grant Watson.

Shane Cullen, The Agreement, 2002. 15 Sheriff Street, Docklands, Dublin, October 2002. Photos courtesy Project Art Centre, Dublin.


LONDON. Curated by Naomi Siderfin and David Crawforth.

Shane Cullen, The Agreement, 2002. Arch space Beaconsfield, London, May/June 2003. Photos Nick Daily, courtesy Beaconsfield London.


PORTADOWN. Curated by Megan Johnston.

Shane Cullen, The Agreement, 2002. Millennium Court Art Centre, Portadown, Northern Ireland, May 2004. Photos courtesy MCAC, Portadown.



The making of The Agreement, 2001. Digital etching and painting by Fire, Dublin

The making of The Agreement, 2001. Artist Shane Cullen at Fire workshops, Dublin.


Selected reviews:

Aidan Dunne, ‘Words Written in Stone’, The Irish Times, 28 September 2002.


‘The Agreement’, The Guardian, The Guide supplement, 5-11 April 2003


Eamonn McCann, ‘Sculpture Gives Better Explanation of How The Agreement Works’, The Belfast Telegraph, 8 May 2003