Glasgow International Art Festival

Alisdair Gray

Local Heros

From large-scale installations by the stars of the contemporary art world to rough-edged ‘art pubs’ run by young local artists, director Francis McKee takes Kirstin Innes through some of the highlights of this year’s Glasgow international, and reveals a festival built around a deep and abiding love of the city

‘What we’ve tried to do this year is suggest a loose theme of ‘public and private’, which runs through many of the curated shows,’ says Francis McKee, director of the biannual Glasgow International, talking me through the 70 plus exhibitions, public interventions, club nights and film screenings that make up this year’s thoroughly impressive programme. ‘They’re very pertinent topics to the civic life of Glasgow.’

Catherine Yass: High Wire

CCA, Fri 11 Apr–Sat 24 May
One of the most striking (and terrifying) images of this year’s Gi is taken from Yass’ new film work, showing Didier Pasquette – one of the top tightrope walkers in the world – setting out along a high wire suspended between Glasgow’s iconic Red Road flats.

‘Catherine has had a long-standing interest in Glasgow,’ says McKee. ‘What she finds in the Red Road flats is all that utopian promise of the 1960s (this was going to be a whole new way of living) before they realised it didn’t really work, and discarded it. And of course, the flats are going to be torn down now. They used to be the highest flats in Europe.

‘I like the way this piece plays with the themes of public and private. You’ve got the very publicness of this large-scale, spectacular event, where the organisers worked with the inhabitants of the flats. On the day of the walk, however, the winds were too high – in the film you see Pasquette start out, full of confidence, and then there’s a moment when he realises he’s going to have to turn back or he’ll fall to his death. What you witness is a moment of completely private fear, at the point where he realises he can’t do it. There was a lot of community support for him, though, I think the residents were very impressed even with the failed attempt.’

Jim Lambie

GOMA, Fri 11 Apr–Mon 29 Sep
One of the biggest names of this year’s programme, the Turner Prize nominee is taking over the whole of the bottom floor of GOMA with an exhibition of all-new work. He’s exactly the sort of artist, McKee explains, who is perfect for Gi: ‘We do this not just to bring big international artists into Glasgow, but also to highlight the fact that we have a number of very successful, world-class artists currently living and working in the city. And I think a lot of people in Glasgow don’t know that. Part of the reason for having such a concentrated festival is to get people in the city more involved: you’ve got an artist like Jim, whose work is colourful and engaging and accessible and funky, all tied in with his interest in music and club culture, exhibiting in a big, publicly accessible venue like GOMA. This exhibition is perfect for Gi.’

Alasdair Gray

Sorcha Dallas, Fri 11 Apr–Sat 17 May
This exhibition is essentially a collection of little-seen works from 1975 that the Lanark author and artist started in collaboration with Liz Lochhead and filmmaker Malcolm Hossick. ‘It’s an interesting choice of exhibition for Sorcha Dallas,’ McKee observes, ‘firstly because it’s picking up an unrealised, long-forgotten project, and secondly because it’s asserting Alasdair’s rightful place in the contemporary art scene. He’s been hugely influential, and that tends to get overlooked because his medium is drawing and because at first sight they look very traditional. Behind those drawings, though, there’s a methodology that fits with contemporary conceptual art.’


McLellan Galleries, Sat 19 April
The Glasgow School of Art’s Masters of Fine Art postgraduate course has produced more Turner Prize-winners and nominees than any other in the country in previous years. The current students are putting on a day where they open their studios to the public, followed by an evening of performance, intervention, sculpture and music, with the promise of a magic show, a pack of foxes and ‘the destruction of Gotham’, involving alumni like Anthony Shrag alongside the current students.

‘By running this as part of the official festival programme, we’re reconnecting what’s coming out of Glasgow School of Art now with the city, and with the international contemporary art scene. All these international students – from Turkey, from America, from Israel – end up living in and making their work in the city. I think we’ve got one of the most vibrant, multicultural local art scenes outside of London.’

Wilhelm Sasnal

66 Osborne Street, Merchant City, Fri 11–Sun 27 April
The Polish painter, one of the most talked-about young artists in the world just now, has recently moved into 16mm film, and has created a new work specially for Gi, based around the recent phenomenon of Polish immigration to Scotland.

The piece he’s created, in memoriam of Angelika Kluk (the Polish exchange student murdered in Glasgow in 2006), is an eight-minute film built around a song Sasnal wrote with a Polish punk band. Gi is naturally protective of the project, which organisers are aware could lead to outbursts of tabloid sensationalism.

‘Obviously, we were aware that this was a particularly sensitive issue, and there was a lot of debate about the project,’ McKee says. ‘However, we’ve made every attempt to approach the matter responsibly. We’ve contacted Angelika’s family. There are different contexts that you can put something like this in – throughout the history of songwriting there’s a tradition of artists like Bob Dylan writing songs about events like this in order to help people come to terms with them. What Wilhelm has done is create a Polish response to the event – using the spoken responses of Polish immigrants living in Glasgow, and in a sense giving Angelika a voice.’

Given to the People: Simon Yuill

GalGael Shipyard, Govan, Fri 18–Sun 20 Apr
‘Simon’s original proposal was to look at the recent history of radical protest in Glasgow over the last 30-40years – examining private people engaged in public protest. Often, I think, this sort of history is swept over, or forgotten about,’ says McKee.

Yuill, working with local musicians Foxface, has created a new version of the story of the Pollok Free State, a community established in the treetops of Pollok Park in the 1990s in protest at the M77 developments. As Glasgow’s green spaces come under threat again, McKee feels that the timing is perfect. He says, ‘Everything feels in flux just now, and Simon’s exhibition is particularly pertinent given recent events – with the Save Pollock Park and Save Our Botanics campaigns, the idea of public protest is still alive in Glasgow.’

The Local

SWG3, Fri 11–Sun 27 April
The Local is the social hub of the festival – and somewhat ironically named, as it’s based in deepest darkest Finniston. A collection of artists, including big names like Jim Lambie and Timorous Beasties, alongside comparative unknowns, will transform SWG3, the gallery and former Commes des Garcons warehouse run by art facilitator Mutley, into a late-opening bar, café, club, gallery and performance space.

‘This is a big, sprawling event – it’s as much about the space itself as what’s in it,’ says McKee. ‘It’s public and private – yes, we want to have a good party, but we also want to give the artists involved a chance to recreate the space for themselves. What I think they want to do with this is resist that glossy, Lottery-funded idea of Glasgow, and of art. They want to do something much rougher, much more local. That this sort of thing keeps happening is vital for the city, so I’m delighted that it’s a part of Gi. It’s an anarchist space.’

Washington Garcia presents Kalup Linzy

Off-site venue at 16 Trongate, Fri 11–Sun 27 Apr
The ex-retail site 16 Trongate is a new venue for the Washington Garcia floating gallery, which has previously dug in at a tenement flat and a disused stable in Pollok Park.

McKee says, ‘Washington Garcia are three very interesting Glasgow-based artists, who in very typical Glasgow fashion have bonded together to form an artist-run collaboration. Basically what we’ve got is three locally-based emergent artists, curating an emergent artist from elsewhere. This sort of event is very important to Gi: creating international links not just between art dealers and gallery owners, but between the artists themselves.’

The international artist in question is Kalup Linzy, a young New York video artist who creates pop culture-saturated pastiches, using the schlocky melodrama of MTV and American soap operas to take the media to task on the stereotyping of black culture. He has a phenomenal collection of wigs, a long-running one man soap opera called All My Chillun streaming off his website, and will be performing himself as well as creating a new performance piece for the gallery.

For full listings, see

Glasgow International Festival Of Visual Art

Two-yearly festival of contemporary art commissioned from artists around the globe and including exhibitions in traditional gallery spaces, plus unique site-specific installations and live performance art. The 2018 festival will be directed by Richard Parry, who was formerly the Curator-Director of the Grundy Art Gallery…

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