Formerly Homeless Artist to Run for Irish Presidency

Kevin Sharkey thinks he could offer a unique perspective to the role.

Irish artist Kevin Sharkey. Photo by Sinn Féin, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

There has been no end to the problems plaguing Irish painter Kevin Sharkey. The once internationally celebrated artist has in recent months survived hardship and homelessness in Dublin. But now, starting anew, the ill-fated painter has announced his bid for the Irish presidency.

Sharkey’s paintings hang in the homes of Charles Saatchi, Courtney Love, and British comedian Matt Lucas. Kate Moss and Whitney Houston are often cited as fans of his art, which once made him millions. In recent years however, Sharkey’s name has mostly appeared in less than fortunate contexts.

On Monday, the Irish Independent reported that the artist was arrested outside his Balbriggan home in County Dublin on charges of stealing a collection of paintings.

The painter denied he committed a crime, telling Gardai (the Irish police force) that the paintings in question were his own, and that he had destroyed them two years ago because they “were inferior works of art” and he “didn’t want them showing up at auction.”

Monday’s arrest wasn’t the first brush with controversy for the internationally acclaimed painter. He was placed in the state-provided flat in Balbriggan last month after living in sheltered accommodation in Dublin city center as he was unable to afford a place of his own in the midst of Dublin’s mounting housing crisis.

“I’m proof that becoming homeless can happen to anyone,” he told the Independent last month. “This is the reality in the current crisis.”

Unpacking his transition from riches to rags, the painter recalled the devastating effects of the 2008 recession, which heralded the collapse of the luxury goods market in Ireland, saying, “People just stopped buying paintings. Businesses couldn’t be seen to be buying them. Everything froze.”

Across two decades, Sharkey said he made over €3 million ($3.3 million) from his art, but did not make sound financial decisions, becoming so destitute at one point that he hired himself out as a gigolo just to survive.

Now Sharkey says he will run for the Irish presidency. Speaking on Today FM, the artist announced his intention to put his name forward in two years when the race opens.

When asked why he would be up for Ireland’s top job, which is largely ceremonial, he explained, “I think I would be a very good president, because I’ve experienced life from many different approaches.”

With the next presidential race still two years away, it remains to be seen whether the artist has any chance at all of swapping his Balbriggan flat for the 95-roomed official residence of the President of Ireland in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

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