You must visit these secret art galleries in Edinburgh and Glasgow
- Rachael Cloughton
- 1 September 2017
We look at some of the most interesting art spaces off the beaten track
Some of Edinburgh and Glasgow's best art spaces aren't so easy to spot and you're unlikely to stumble across them in your first few weeks at uni – but they're well worth seeking out. The grassroots scenes in these cities are where some of the most innovative and exciting exhibitions are happening, often in locations equally fascinating.
Take for example, the Glue Factory in North Glasgow – this 19th-century building was designed by John Keppie, whose assistant was none other than Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Over the years, it has played host to a mineral water factory, Argyle Cycles and, most recently, a Scottish adhesive company. Today, white-walled gallery space and artist studios, occasionally interrupted by decommissioned glue vats, fill the cavernous, industrial warehouse. The Glue Factory has been home to artists and makers since 2010, when FINN Collective used it as a venue for their show during the Glasgow International. Since then, it has shown a diverse programme with film, music and performance rubbing alongside the visual arts. Other major artist studio complexes like the Whisky Bond and Grey Wolf Studios are also nearby.
In the Barras, there's the Pipe Factory, a former 19th-century clay tobacco pipe factory that artists have converted into a complex of studios and a gallery. The building retains much of its period charm and the exhibition programme showcases some of the most interesting Glasgow-based artists – this year alone Geneva Sills, France-Lise Mcgurn, Urara Tsuchiya and Zoe Williams have all had exhibitions here. Also in the East you'll find David Dale Gallery & Studios, set up by Glasgow School of Art graduates in 2010. The space takes its name from the 18th-century businessman, David Dale, who set up Britain's first Turkey-red dyeing works on the original site. Dale used his wealth to promote education among the working classes and was one of the more progressive industrialists in Glasgow. No doubt he'd have approved of the uncompromising, innovative programme this space runs in his name.
Other unusual Glasgow art spaces include Queens Park Railway Club, run by artists Patrick Jameson and Ellis Luxemburg. The club occupies a waiting room on the station platform and hosts a lively programme of events, exhibitions and residency programmes for artists and writers.
While in the West End, you'll find the Common Guild – unlike the other gallery spaces mentioned here, the Common Guild isn't artist-led or supported by studios and couldn't be described as grassroots. It has a firmly established, international programme; in 2015 Janice Kerbel was nominated for the Turner Prize for DOUG, which was commissioned by the Common Guild and in 2014, Duncan Campbell went on to win it for his film It for Others that was also commissioned by the gallery. Despite the Common Guild's profile, it occupies a discreet space outside of the city centre in a beautiful Victorian townhouse on Woodlands Terrace. The house belongs to none other than Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon and, alongside a consistently impressive exhibition programme, you can actually browse through his library, which remains on site.
One of the more recent additions to Glasgow's grassroots art scene is Gallery Celine, which opened in 2015. Possibly inspired by the Common Guild, or perhaps by the wave of artists opening their homes up during Glasgow Open House, the city-wide DIY arts festival in May, this is another gallery inside a residential space. It is currently run by Céline Amendola, David Excoffier, Adam Lewis Jacob and Michael White
In Edinburgh, some of the most exciting projects are happening in Leith. Rhubaba Gallery and Studios opened here in 2010 in a warehouse off Leith Walk, initially by a group of recent graduates from ECA. One of its founding aims was to give early-career artists the opportunity to produce new work among peers. The gallery space is small, but the ambition of the exhibition programme is anything but – in the last few years Ed Atkins, Benedict Drew, Alan Currall, Serena Korda, Lucy Pawlak, James Clarkson and Hannah James have all had exhibitions here.
Travel a little further down towards the Shore, until you reach Ocean Terminal and you'll find DOK Artist Space – a steel shed that is the last remaining building from Henry Robbs Shipyard. The group behind DOK saved it from ruin by converting it into affordable studio and events space. It's early days (their first show was only in February 2016) but they've already hosted some knockout exhibitions such as Intersection in Archifringe and group shows by students at ECA. Another promising development in Leith is the Biscuit Factory – an arts and fashion hub in the former biscuit factory off Bonnington Road. Plans are in motion to convert the space into 20 studios and a 7500-square-foot gallery space, cementing Leith's reputation as the creative quarter of the city.
Nearby in Newhaven, there's Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. Visitors can drop in to see exhibitions or attend talks or seminars and the workshop has a fantastic range of evening and weekend courses if you fancy making your own ceramics or trying out metal sculpture alongside your studies. MILK have one of their popular cafés on site, too, making a trip all the more enticing.