EVA International (previously known as e v+ a, Exhibition of Visual Art) was founded by Limerick-based artists and academics in January 1977. The aim of the original committee was to show the work of contemporary visual artists and “provide the public with an opportunity to visit and experience an exhibition not normally available in the region and [...] stimulate an awareness of the visual arts here” [taken from the Introduction to EVA 1977 catalogue].
Initially the exhibition took place annually and artworks were selected from an open call for submissions by a panel of acclaimed Irish artists and arts professionals. In 1979 Sandy Nairne was appointed as the first international guest curator of the exhibition and this model has continued since then. Through working with international guest curators, EVA International aims to introduce them to Irish art and artists, while simultaneously introducing Irish audiences to international art and artists.
In 1986 the...Young EVA programme was introduced to develop younger audiences, encouraging their engagement with and understanding of contemporary art. Young EVA has been an integral aspect of EVA exhibitions since this time and is widely acknowledged as being the first encounter that many future artists and arts professionals had with contemporary art in Limerick.
From 1994 to 2010, and alongside the selected “Open” exhibition, an “Invited” element of exhibition was established during alternate years, where the guest curators invited artists to participate in the programme. Additionally from 1997 until 2009 “Colloquies”, a series of discursive events reflecting on the exhibition, was developed alongside the “Open” exhibition during alternate years between “Invited” editions.
In 2011 the Arts Council initiated an organization review that resulted in EVA International changing from an annual exhibition to a biennial. Since 1977, 2,041 artists have participated in EVA International and it has frequently been the first major public exhibition for emerging Irish artists, who have subsequently gone on to become internationally recognized artists.