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Issue 27 - Well worth waiting for

Scotland Magazine Issue 27
June 2006


This article is 12 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Well worth waiting for

Mark Nicholls welcomes the re-opening of Scotland's most popular museum

The building is stunning, the collections diverse and the artwork sublime. As an institution, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has been missed by the people of Glasgow and visitors alike over the past three years while it has been closed for refurbishment. But from July 11 it re-opens with an array of delights, old favourites nestling next to items that have not been seen in public for years and some which have never been on show before.

The £27.9m refurbishment has seen the collections re-positioned and themed in a way that stimulates the imagination and provokes questions. The galleries have been opened up and allowed to ‘breathe,’ sucking in natural light that gives the building a new ambiance. Before its closure, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was the most visited museum in the United Kingdom outside London. With its long-awaited re-opening, the authorities in Glasgow are convinced it will attract even more visitors in the future.

There will be several popular exhibits back on display such as in the animal galleries, including the elephant affectionately known as Sir Roger, plus new attractions with the immaculately restored Spitfire LA198, 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron, suspended from the ceiling of the West Court.

Other highlights are Egyptian treasures on loan from the British Museum, and Kelvingrove’s world-famous impressionist collection along with masterpieces such as Rembrandt’s Man in Armour and works by Van Gogh, Whistler, Monet and Botticelli.

And Salvador Dali’s legendary painting Christ of St John of The Cross will be returned from the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, where it has been housed since 1993. It will hang in pride of place at the end of a long, bright gallery, creating a breathtaking vision as visitors approach it.

Kelvingrove will also pay homage to Glasgowborn genius Charles Rennie Mackintosh, one of the founders of the European Art Nouveau movement.

The ‘Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style’ gallery will showcase Mackintosh’s life and legacy through his art, design and architecture.There will also be galleries looking at Glasgow’s history, its people and the role it played in the wider world.

The new-look Kelvingrove will have 35 per cent more space to display around 8000 objects and there has been the creation of a lower-ground floor from the Victorian cellars which will house state-ofthe- art exhibition areas and the Conservatory Café.

The philosophy behind Kelvingrove has shifted from the approach of its Victorian creators to a 21st century view that is object-based, visitor-centred, and intent on telling the most interesting stories about the objects on display. The refurbished galleries have 22 themes under titles such as: Ancient Egypt; Animal Superlatives and the Spitfire; Cultures under Threat; Dutch Old Masters; French 19th Century Paintings; Glasgow Stories, Glasgow and its World; Scottish art: The Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists; Scottish identity in Art; Scotland’s Lost Wildlife; and Words, Music, Beauty.

The goal has been to create modern facilities, services and displays while ensuring the building itself can be seen to its best effect and enjoyed by all visitors.

The building itself stands in the Kelvingrove Park area on the banks of the River Kelvin with the Gothic-style towers of Glasgow University on the hillside above. The original stonework and carvings have also been restored and the stunning façade is complemented inside with huge ornate halls and galleries that are a work of art in themselves.

The museum and gallery first arose out of a major exhibition held in Kelvingrove Park in 1888 to raise funds for its construction. The Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901 was held to celebrate and inaugurate the new building, and between May and November that year it was visited by over 11 million people.

The building reopened as a museum in October 1902, and has been a firm city favourite since.

From that time, the Kelvingrove Collection has been recognised as internationally significant, holding high quality collections across the entire array of museum disciplines – European and Scottish Art, Arms and Armour, Natural History, Scottish and Mediterranean Archaeology and World Cultures. When refurbishment work began three years ago, the collection and building was valued at £565 million.

The refurbishment is known as the Kelvingrove New Century Project and has been funded by Glasgow City Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, Historic Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Kelvingrove also has a multi-sensory Object Cinema, and the original galleries have been re-designed to be more informative and engaging for all ages. A modular display system has been created to enable up to 10 per cent of the stories and exhibits to be changed regularly.

As with all of Glasgow’s civic museums and galleries, admission to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is free. It will open to visitors: 10.00- 17.00 Monday-Thursday, and Saturday; and 11.00 -17.00 on Friday and Sunday.

Further information on Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and its exhibits can be found at: