11 of the best art galleries in Scotland off the beaten track
Some of art's best kept secrets lie outside of the big cities
Scotland's galleries scene isn't just about the big guns and wee treats around Glasgow and Edinburgh. Rachael Cloughton names some of the exciting art spaces far away from the central belt
An Lanntair, Stornoway
An Lanntair is a fascinating multi-arts space in the Outer Hebrides. Like so many of the cultural venues located off the central belt of Scotland, the uniqueness of the centre's location is a huge influence on the visual arts programme. An Lanntair's spring show, for example, reflects on the connections of the Island to its Nordic neighbours, through the photography exhibition 10 from the North | 10 bho Tuath. The exhibition includes images by Norwegian photographer Andrea Gjestvang of women living on the Faroe Islands as well as Scottish documentary photographer Sophie Gerrard's Drawn to the Land series, which captures women involved in farming.
An Lanntair, Kenneth Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. Open Mon–Wed, 10am–9pm, Thu–Sat, 10am–late.
Mount Stuart, Bute
One of the most eclectic visual art spaces in Scotland, Mount Stuart is a grand 19th-century neo-Gothic mansion on the Isle of Bute. When the house was first built it represented an eccentric mix of technological innovation (it was the first home in Scotland to have an indoor heated swimming pool) fused with the nostalgic opulence of the Gothic Revival style. Its owner, the Marquess of Bute, was a keen art lover and his private collection is still available to view at Mount Stuart.
That collection includes some outstanding works by Scottish artists Allan Ramsay and Henry Raeburn, as well as Italian masterpieces from the 16th century and works by Dutch and Flemish Old Masters. But what's really exciting about this house is its outstanding contemporary art programme.
Since 2001, Mount Stuart has quietly commissioned and supported some of Scotland's most prominent contemporary artists. The house's visual art programme kicked off with a residency and exhibition by Kate Whiteford, who produced an enormous representation of a prehistoric necklace discovered on the island. This work set an ambitious precedent for future artists with Thomas Joshua Cooper, Langlands & Bell, Anya Gallaccio, Kate Davis, Lucy Skaer and Lorna Macintyre being just a handful of those who have since spent time making and showing work here. It was also Mount Stuart that supported the production of Nathan Coley's iconic There Will Be No Miracles Here (2006), which is now permanently installed in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art's grounds in Edinburgh.
This summer, Mount Stuart will open a new exhibition of work by Christine Borland, timed to coincide with the November centenary of WWI's Armistice. It's an eagerly anticipated show, not least because it presents an entirely new body of work by Borland, and was inspired by another chapter in Mount Stuart's history as a WWI naval hospital.
The exhibition, Works to the Power of Twelve, looks at the number 12, which recurs symbolically in major world religions and across traditions, mythology and superstition. These seemingly contradictory belief systems are reflected, yet happily co-exist, in the eclectic architecture, design and décor of Mount Stuart. Borland will exhibit across the house, in the swimming pool, conservatory (once an WWI operating theatre), and the Marble Hall and Dining Room. Mount Stuart may be almost 200 years old, but the house is as innovative as ever.
Christine Borland: Works to the Power of Twelve, Mount Stuart, Rothesay, Sat 23 Jun–Sun 18 Nov.
Comar, meaning 'confluence' in Gaelic, is a vibrant multi-arts organisation perched on a hill overlooking the picturesque Tobermory Bay on Mull. Established in 2013 following the merger of An Tobar and Mull Theatre, it's gone on to show a knock-out programme of contemporary art under the watchful eye of curator Mike Darling. Previous exhibitions include Graham Fagen's Slave's Lament, originally commissioned for the Venice Biennale, while last year it hosted Sam Ainsley's first solo exhibition in Scotland for 30 years. The gallery's spring exhibition will show the work of multi-disciplinary artist Vivian Ross-Smith, whose grandfather hailed from Mull.
Comar, An Tobar Gallery, Tobermory, Mull. Open Jan–Mar: Tue–Sat, 11am–4pm; Apr–Sep: Mon–Sat, 10am–5pm.
Pier Art Centre, Stromness
Pier Arts Centre was set up in 1979, after the author Margaret Gardiner donated her impressive collection of 20th century British art to the people of Orkney, a place she often visited on retreat from London. The 67 works in Gardiner's collection are a treasure trove of British Modernism and include works by the likes of Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Orcadian artists Margaret Tait and Stanley Cursiter. Following Gardiner's request that the collection would continue to grow, well over 100 further works have been acquired by the centre since; including key pieces by Sean Scully, Eva Rothschild, Martin Boyce and Olafur Eliasson. The full permanent collection will be on display until the end of the year, alongside an equally marvellous programme of temporary exhibitions.
Pier Arts Centre, Victoria Street, Stromness, Orkney. Open Jun–Sep: Mon–Sat, 10.30am–5pm; Oct–May: Tue–Sat, 10.30am–5pm.
Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen
Peacock Visual Arts is a dynamic arts space in Aberdeen city centre, with printmaking and digital production facilities and a gallery space all under one roof. Opened in 1974, it has supported generations of artists in the city, and doesn't shy away from getting involved in the wider conversations happening there. It recently hosted a series of critical conversations asking 'what comes after oil?', encouraging thinking about energy transition in north-east Scotland and the impact this will have on the city's future.
Peacock Visual Arts, Castle Street, Aberdeen. Open Tue–Sat, 9.30am–5.30pm.
Hospitalfield is a stunning 19th century arts and craft house in Arbroath, whose owners at that time, Patrick Allan and Elizabeth Fraser, were keen supporters of the arts. The house's Picture Gallery is one of Scotland's most important Victorian rooms and was built to hang an impressive collection of 19th century art. In 1902, at the owners' bequest, Hospitalfield opened as a residential art school, making a huge impact on the development of Scottish Modernism: James Cowie, Robert Colquhoun, Robert MacBryde and Joan Eardley all made work here. The legacy continues today: in recent years the likes of Hardeep Pandhal, Urara Tsuchiya and Sarah Rose have also spent time here. Hospitalfield regularly run events for curious visitors, including heritage tours and 'meanders' around the house and grounds.
Hospitalfield House, Arbroath, Angus. See their website for opening times of heritage tours, walled gardens and café.
Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre, Lochmaddy
Taigh Chearsabhagh may be located in one of the most rural and remote areas of Scotland, in North Uist, but its provision outstrips what most central belt city centre galleries offer. In addition to a diverse exhibition programme, showing international artists alongside works by local makers, the museum and gallery have publicly accessible print and dark rooms, and is the only Scottish contemporary arts venue that offers a National Certificate in Art & Design and a full four-year Degree in Fine Art. Moving image work has become an exciting new focus for their arts programme over the last few years, and Taigh Chearsabhagh has provided important support for works of this discipline by high-profile artists including Ilana Halperin, Dalziel + Scullion and Shona Illingworth.
Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre, Lochmaddy, North Uist, Open in winter: Mon–Sat, 10am–4pm; summer: Mon–Sat, 10am–5pm.
An Talla Solais, Ullapool
An Talla Solais was set up in 2003 by a group of local artists and art lovers frustrated by the lack of creative opportunities in Ullapool. The project started small, with the group organising pop-up exhibitions in a redundant library building, then a year later An Talla Solais moved into a former medical centre, providing them with a much larger base. From here it delivers classes and courses for beginners and professional artists alike, providing crucial artistic support for the community, as well as studio and workshop space. In recent years the gallery space has moved into the Caledonian Hotel in the town centre, where it's shown an eclectic mix of work from internationally renowned artists including An Talla Solais' patron Will Maclean RSA, to local group shows and open exhibitions.
An Talla Solais Studios, Market Street, Ullapool; An Talla Solais Gallery at the Caledonian Hotel, West Argyle Street entrance Gallery open Mar–Dec Mon–Fri 10am–1:30pm, 2–5pm.
Dunoon Burgh Hall, Dunoon
Dunoon Burgh Hall is another success story from the West of Scotland. Architect John McAslan bought a dilapidated Dunoon Burgh Hall in 2008 for £1. When he took his family to see the old 19th-century hall soon after purchasing it they told him he'd been robbed. A huge renovation project ensued, transforming the hall into an impressive multi-arts space. The first show in 2012 was an Artist Room exhibition by Robert Mapplethorpe, setting an ambitious precedent but one that the programme has lived up to, with major exhibitions by Andy Warhol and Martin Parr following. McAslan has transformed what might have been a sleepy village hall into one of the most cutting-edge, exciting spaces off the central belt.
Dunoon Burgh Hall, 195 Argyll Street, Dunoon. Open Tue–Sat, noon–4pm, Sun, 1–4pm.
Kirkcudbright Galleries, Kirkcudbright
Few people are aware of Kirkcudbright's fascinating artistic heritage as one of the UK's most significant artist colonies, but a redevelopment of the local town hall into a new art gallery promises to change all of that. Opening in June 2018, the gallery will give prominence to the Kirkcudbright Artists Collection showing work by local boy (and more famously, the Glasgow Boy) Edward Atkinson Hornel, alongside Jessie Marion King, Samuel John Peploe, Robert Sivell and John Faed who all spent significant time in Kirkcudbright making work. The touring crowd-pleaser, The Monarch of the Glen by Sir Edwin Landseer, will also be on loan to the gallery as part of its opening celebrations.
Kirkcudbright Galleries, St Mary Street, Kirkcudbright. Open (from Sat 9 Jun) in winter: Tue–Sat, 10am–4pm, Sun, noon–4pm; summer: Mon–Sat, 10am–5pm, Sun, noon–5pm
The Fife Arms, Braemar
While it hasn't opened yet, the Fife Arms at Braemar is sure to be a huge hit on the Scottish art scene. Owned by art world heavyweights Iwan and Manuela Wirth (of Hauser & Wirth), the hotel venue will 'reflect their love of art and design … creating a unique and transformative experience for guests.' Durslade Farmhouse in Somerset is another hotel location owned by the Wirths and has impressive installations by Pipilotti Rist and Guillermo Kuitca as part of the interiors so the Fife Arms promises to bring an equally impressive roster of contemporary artists to the town. Artists are even involved in the renovation process, with artist and poet Alec Finlay collaborating with Scottish architects Moxon and interior designer Russell Sage. Love contemporary art? Get a room.
The Fife Arms, Mar Rd, Braemar, opening 2018; you can follow Alec Finlay's blog here.
Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre
Arts centre with regular exhibitions, music events and educational programmes.
An Tobar Arts Centre
Argyll Terrace, Tobermory,
Isle of Mull,
Argyll and Bute,
An Tobar is the only publicly funded, multidisciplinary arts centre in Argyll. Established by a group of committed individuals in 1997, it has grown to become a vibrant centre for visual arts, craft and music, promoting innovative and creative work at…
An Talla Solais
Ullapool Visual Arts, Market Street,
Mount Stuart House and Gardens
Isle of Bute,
Argyll and Bute,
The original Mount Stuart dated from 1719, but a fire in 1877 saw the buidling severely damaged though much of the contents survived. The 3rd Marquess of Bute had already commissioned Robert Rowand Anderson to make extensive alterations before the fire.
Dunoon Burgh Hall
195 Argyll Street,
Creative and cultural hub with a regular programme of theatre, comedy, music, visual art exhibitions and more.
St Mary Street,
Dumfries and Galloway,
The Pier Arts Centre
28–30 Victoria Street Stromness,
A contemporary art organisation situated in a historic setting. Hospitalfield was built and developed by Elizabeth and Patrick Allan Fraser and left in a charitable trust to run a programme of artists' residencies, open weekends, courses and regular…
Peacock Visual Arts
21 Castle Street,
Peacock is the leading contemporary visual arts organisation in Aberdeen and the NE of Scotland, bringing artists and the public together through exhibitions‚ events‚ talks‚ residencies‚ film screenings‚ gigs and workshops to make and present art in…