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Issue 36 - Two for one

Scotland Magazine Issue 36
December 2007


This article is 10 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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Two for one

Roddy Martine looks at The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Dean Gallery, two venues close enough to be counted as one and the same.

Up until 1984, Scotland’s national collection of modern art was housed in the elegant Inverleith House, at the heart of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanical Gardens. The setting, surrounded by old trees and rhododendrons, was glorious, but as the collection grew in keeping with the times, it became evident that the site was simply inadequate.

At the time, the former John Watson’s School, a magnificent neo-classical building designed by the Scottish architect William Burn in 1825, was available, so the property was acquired and the collection moved. The spacious grounds on the north west side of Edinburgh’s New Town were equally appealing and provided an ideal setting for sculptures by Tony Cragg, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Rachel Whiteread, among others.

More impressively, the lawn at the front of the building was landscaped to a design by the Dumfriesshire-based designer Charles Jencks to create Landform Ueda, a stepped, serpentine-shaped mound complemented by crescent-shaped pools of water. A combination of artwork, garden and social space, the land form was inspired by chaos theory and from shapes found in nature. It won the Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year in 2004.

But that is by no means all. As public enthusiasm for modern art escalated, so did the demand for exhibition space. On the far side of BelfordRoad is the Dean Gallery, built in 1833 by the architect Thomas Hamilton as the Dean Orphan Hospital. In 1999 it was converted into a second contemporary art gallery, its purpose was to show the National Gallery of Modern Art’s extensive collection of Dada and Surrealist art, and to provide a home for the work of the Edinburgh-born sculptor Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. Arecreation of Paolozzi’s London studio can be found in an adjoining room.

Paolozzi’s monumental sculpture Vulcan was commissioned especially for the Dean Gallery’s Great Hall, and installed in this room’s ceiling are Paolozzi panels which were originally commissioned for Cleish Castle in Fife. Amongst the artworks in the grounds of the Dean Gallery are pieces by Antoin Bourdelle, George Rickey, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Richard Long and John Opie.

A selection of paintings and sculpture from the Gallery’s Dada and Surrealist collection is displayed in the Penrose Gallery and adjacent Keiller Library, a specially designed library gallery. There is also a reading room where works from the library and archive can be consulted by appointment.

Now with a new administrative team comprising Sir Brian Ivory as chairman, John Leighton as director general, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern continues to draw upon its own impressive collection, the early part of which features French and Russian art from the beginning of the 20th century, Cubist paintings and superb holdings of Expressionist and modern British art. Special highlights include paintings by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

The Dean Gallery also houses an outstanding collection of international postwar work and the most important and extensive collection of modern Scottish art, which includes examples of J.D. Ferguson such as his fine portrait of Anne Estelle Rice (1879-1959), an American artist living in Paris in 1906. The post-World War II collection features art by Francis Bacon (notably his Figure Study), David Hockney, Andy Warhol and Lucian Freud, with more recent works by artists including Antony Gormley, Gilbert & George, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

Throughout December and running until 10th February in the New Year, the top floor of the Dean Gallery has an exhibition of the work of Sir Basil Spence, arguably Scotland’s most renowned modern architect. Born in India 100 years ago, Spence came to Edinburgh in his youth and studied at Edinburgh College of Art.

After winning the design competition for Coventry Cathedral, he soon became a household name and, from then on, his career was assured. In the years that followed, he designed Glasgow Airport, the Household Cavalry Barracks in London, the University of Sussex complex, and high-rise housing in Glasgow’s Gorbals. This centenary exhibition is the first ever National Galleries of Scotland show devoted to architecture and celebrates his brilliant and diverse career.

Two gallery complexes in their own adjacent extensive grounds, each offering variety, excitement and a challenge to the senses. On a summer’s day, visitors can stroll down to the Water of Leith, Edinburgh’s river, which ambles behind and below the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

They can explore Charles Jencks’ Landform Ueda, or they can take time in between exploring gallery spaces to enjoy the excellent Gallery Cafe, which opens onto a large sun terrace and garden, or go across the way to the Cafe Newton at the Dean Gallery.

Afterwards, they can browse the shop which sells a wide variety of print, posters and publications, stationery and unusual gifts at prices to suit every pocket.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art & The Dean Gallery,
75 Belford Road, Edinburgh EH4 3DR
Open throughout the year 10am to 5pm
Closed 25th and 26th December; Open 1st January
from 12pm to 5pm
Tel: +44 (0)131 624 6200
A free gallery bus from Edinburgh’s Mound below Edinburgh Castle and beside the National Galleries of Scotland, runs backwards and forwards every three quarters of an hour to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Dean Gallery.

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