Art:pack. An art gallery that fits in the palm of your hand…. A stacked deck

Art:pack is a beautifully packaged set of playing cards. Each individual card features an original design by a leading Irish artist - 54 in all

Art:pack showcases major visual artists working in the various disciplines of painting, photography, sculpture, film/video and new media - all of whom have agreed to contribute original work for free.

Each artist who agreed to contribute to Art:pack was given the card size and a number, Ace of Clubs, Queen of Hearts and so on, and asked to design a card. The result is 54 pieces of visual artwork of startling originality and quality.

Take a hand
Art:pack is the ideal gift, for friends, family, clients or employees.
It supports a worthy cause. It will be available in time for Christmas and the New Year. It is unique in that such a gathering of contemporary artists could never be assembled for a commercial undertaking. It will give continued pleasure to those who receive it - whether they play cards or not. And it is a beautifully packaged absolutely unique gift of just the right size.

Art:pack was launched at the RHA Gallery on October 23. The Chairman of the Irish Hospice Foundation, Bill Shipsey, delivered this speech on the night.

There is much in common between Art and Hospice. When you visit a working Hospice you expect to see dying people but in an indefinable way the experience of meeting patients and caregivers makes you come away feeling a better human being. Similarly, when you visit a fine museum you expect to see beautiful paintings but you also come away feeling a better human being.

Hospice is primarily a concept of care, rather than a specific place of care. Hospice emphasizes quality rather than quantity of life. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death. Hospice affirms life but regards dying as a normal process. In the introduction to the Whoseday Book Seamus Heaney wrote of Hospice as "acknowledging the deep human need for care that in turn depends upon the human capacity to provide it." "It is as if," he wrote, "T.S. Eliot's line 'the whole earth is our hospital' had come marvellously to life."

Tonight we in the Hospice Foundation wish to pay tribute to the 52 Artists and two Jokers - also Artists! who have made Art Pack possible. Art, the Time Magazine Art Editor Robert Hughes wrote is 'the protein of our cultural imagination'. For us, in the Foundation Art is and has been far more than just cultural protein. Since 1999 almost 75 % of the money raised by the Foundation has come about as a result of the generosity and genius of the artistic and literary communities. We have thrived upon this support and commitment and the fruits of your labour will enable us to realise our ambitious mission of ensuring that nobody dies without dignity and that nobody dies in unnecessary pain.

On a significant day of other life enhancing good news for this Island we want to say Thank You. Thank you on behalf of the many thousands of Irish people who will benefit from the projects and services and research that will be enabled and provided from the money raised from the Art Packs. Thank you for your genius, your generosity and your gift to us.

Thanks also are due to our sponsor Digiphone. As a result of its generous underwriting all of the costs of Art Pack have been covered. Thanks are also due to Digital:CC who designed the wonderful Art Pack web site. I wish also to thank the RHA for their generosity in giving us this beautiful and singularly appropriate venue. Finally I must thank the Art Pack committee under the chair of Marie Donnelly.

Thomas Merton moved by the paintings of Van Gogh described them as "Wheels of fire, cosmic, rich, full-bodied victories over desperation". The same can be said of the Art Pack collection - full-bodied victories over desperation.

Those of you who may become fortunate enough to actually own an Art Pack might also reflect on what Andre Malraux said of Art Books. He described them as 'museums without walls'. With an Art Pack you get much more - not only a museum without a wall but a unique gift and a direct participation in the realisation of the hospice vision - a vision which in the words of Seamus Heaney "remind[s] us of that threshold of possibility where what is sympathetic in our nature recognises and embraces what is dependant, and reminds us further that this is a threshold where the two halves of the word farewell can separate and see themselves again for what they really are, not a parting salute but an encouragement to meet what comes with spirit and force: to farewell."