Visual Art highlights in Edinburgh and Glasgow

Artist Rooms

From world-renowned works of art to site specific projects, Glasgow and Edinburgh have a picture to fit any frame, finds Talitha Koetze and Nicola Paul

Glasgow is known for its dynamic contemporary art scene, and there is no shortage of galleries to suit every taste and curiosity. Opening in September this year, Trongate 103, the new über art complex in the Merchant City, will provide a home to the galleries previously situated around King Street, including Transmission Gallery, Glasgow Project Room, Street Level Photoworks, and Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre.

Contemporary galleries flourish in close proximity: Sorcha Dallas - dedicated to representing and promoting Scottish artists, Mary Mary with its large roster of women artists; and The Modern Institute (look out for Turner Prize nominees here).

A younger generation of artist-run spaces includes Market Gallery in the East End, Recoat, promoting urban culture in the West End, and a growing cluster of independent spaces in the railway arches around Kelvinhaugh Street and Eastvale Place, including Ten til Ten, Washington Garcia and SWG3.

Glasgow City Council has a rich collection of museums and galleries – all with free entry. Not to be missed are GoMA, Kelvingrove, The Burrell Collection and St Mungo Museum of Religious Art. Conveniently situated among the bars and restaurants of Sauchiehall Street, the CCA shows contemporary art, theatre and cinema. Wander south of the river to seek out the art complex with a hidden garden at Tramway. Don’t miss the Southside Gallery and be sure to nip around the corner for one of the coffee hot spots in the south: Grianach café and gallery for light meals, excellent coffee and a dose of SAD light for those dreich Glasgow days.

Best of all is Glasgow’s thriving independent scene – the one-off art shows in unusual locations that feel more like underground warehouse parties than gallery openings. To find out about these you need to plug into the right social media networks.

Edinburgh’s art scene is very different – the city caters predominantly for its international community with more institutional and established galleries. National Galleries of Scotland on the Mound, the National Portrait Gallery and the beautiful interiors of Inverleith house in the Botanical Gardens show world class exhibitions in genteel surroundings, while The Fruitmarket and classy commercial galleries like Ingleby and Doggerfisher also host an impressive line-up of artists.

Although there are fewer artist-run projects in Edinburgh, independent galleries pop up all the time. A recent newcomer to the scene is Sierra Metro, a not for profit artist-run gallery housed in a disused testing facility for the Northern Lighthouse Board in Granton. Unmissable too is the extraordinary Jupiter Artland out in Ratho.

The Embassy Gallery, now in its new home at the Roxy Art House, is run by a committee that showcases some of the most innovative work in the city. Down Cockburn Street the Collective Gallery supports young artists and writers with its New Work Scotland programme, and lens-based work is supported at Stills Gallery across the road.

The art circuit of these two very different cities will reward exploration and provide for a bit of cultural enlightenment.

Roy Lichtenstein - In the Car
Typical of Lichtenstein’s Pop Art reappropriation of comic strip panels as ‘high art’, there’s a certain kineticism about this piece which makes it stand out. Glamorous blonde goes for a drive with square-jawed guy, and an iconic moment is framed. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 0131 624 6558, until spring 2009.

Damien Hirst - Away From the Flock
Hirst firmly established his name with a set of infamous pickled animals, and now one of them has taken up residence in Edinburgh. Away From the Flock features a dead sheep preserved in formaldehyde, and has been restored after a visitor tried to rename it “Black Sheep” by pouring ink into its tank. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 0131 624 6558, until spring 2009.

Gilbert and George - Existers
This 1984 photomontage is done in characteristic Gilbert and George style, using a strong black grid and an intense colour scheme. It exemplifies the power of youth, although critics claim they are posed like thugs and rent boys. Far from being their most controversial piece, but still worth a look. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 0131 624 6558, until spring 2009.

Salvador Dali - Christ of St John on the Cross
Visitors are lucky see this painting at all, after it was damaged back in 2003 by a disgruntled brick-wielding museum-goer who objected to the way Dali personified Christ. The idea for his famous work is said to have come from a dream. Kelvingrove, Glasgow, 0141 276 9540, permanent collection.

Doctor Who - Various works
Adults and kids alike will enjoy the chance to see original props, costumes and monsters from the hit TV series. A must for any die-hard fan – just be prepared for the Dalek sound effects… Kelvingrove, Glasgow, 0141 276 9540, until 4 January 2010.

Eva Hesse - Studiowork
This contemporary exhibition contains 50 of Hesse’s sculptures, many of which have never been seen before. Taken from her studio after her death in 1970, many were left unfinished, thus embodying the title of the show. Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 0131 225 2383, until 25 October.

Titian - Diana and Actaeon
The British National Galleries were so keen to keep this artwork in the country that they paid £50 million for it earlier this year – it’s worth a visit just to see what all the fuss was about. Said to be one of Italian Renaissance Master Titian’s finest works, it will now divide its time between the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the National Gallery in London. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 0131 624 6558, until 2014.

Andy Warhol - Trash Cans
A classic example of Warhol’s love of repetition, turning everyday, commonplace objects into artworks though black and white photography. A sharp contrast to the brightness of his earlier screenprint work. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 0131 624 6558, until spring 2009

Eduardo Paolozzi - Masters of the Universe
Based on a drawing of Isaac Newton by Quentin Blake, this sculpture is a celebrated piece in the Cubist movement. Edinburgh-born Paolozzi specialised in the deconstruction of human form through large-scale works, and this is seen by many as his finest. Dean Gallery, Edinburgh, 0131 624 6200, permanent collection

Francesca Woodman - Roma
Despite committing suicide at just 22, Woodman’s work has gained a strong following. Her black and white photographs often feature nudity, depicting the female form in all its vulnerability, an state that Woodman herself often felt. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 0131 624 6558, until spring 2009

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