Student Guide 2016: Best places for free art

A round up of some of the best art galleries in Glasgow and Edinburgh, where admission doesn't cost a thing

Student Guide 2016: Best places for free art


It was the painter Kandinsky who said 'there is no must in art, because art is free'. Turns out K Dog was pretty wise: both Edinburgh and Glasgow are home to several of the country's most impressive galleries, and entry doesn't cost a penny.


The Scottish National Gallery was designed by William Henry Playfair in 1850 and stands proudly on the Mound. It houses several notable works from masters such as Claude Monet, Raphael and Rembrandt van Rijn. On Queen Street, there's the National Portrait Gallery, which is home to paintings of world-famous Scots, from Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary Queen of Scots to Tilda Swinton and Sean Connery. Completing the capital's national set is the Modern Art duo on Belford Road in the West End. Known as galleries One and Two, both showcase a range of multimedia exhibits as well as sculptures and paintings.

The Fruitmarket Gallery can be found behind Waverley Station on Market Street, and houses a world-class collection of contemporary art. This autumn, see new sculptures from Mexican artist Damián Ortega (pictured, right). Elsewhere, Summerhall in the southside has a year-round visual art programme, in addition to its many gigs. Highlights this year include a Joseph Beuys retrospective, running until the end of September, and Diagramming the Listener, an installation from Mark Fell drawing inspiration from geometry, time and the idea of the self.


The Kelvingrove reopened after extensive refurbishment in 2006. It now houses an impressive collection of more than 22 galleries, with everything from silver and ceramics to interactive exhibits. Highlights include paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Vincent van Gogh, as well as the world-famous Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali. The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) has a selection of acclaimed contemporary art, including David Hockney, John Bellany and Andy Warhol. The Burrell Collection comprises 8000 objects gifted to the city by Sir William Burrell, including works from Cézanne and Rodin, as well as medieval art.

The Lighthouse regularly hosts exciting contemporary exhibitions. This autumn, see Adventures in Space by Jon Jardine, which explores the architecture of science fiction. The Modern Institute features work from several Turner Prize winners, including Martin Boyce and Simon Starling, plus several Glasgow-based nominees including Luke Fowler and Jim Lambie. It works on public and private shows with associated artists year round.

Another key visual art venue is the CCA, which regularly commissions and presents work from new Scottish artists, as well as showcasing work from international figures. This autumn, see Notes on Decomposition by Pio Abad, which explores ideas of cultural artefacts and values in the UK and Philippines.


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