Four Stunning Exhibitions From Scotland’s Recently Closed Inverleith House

After 30 years, funding cuts caused one of Edinburgh’s most popular public art galleries to shut its doors

Inverleith House
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's Inverleith House Kevin McDonagh via Flickr

For 30 years, an 18th-century cottage sitting in the middle of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens was home to one of Scotland’s most popular and innovative public art galleries. Unfortunately for contemporary art lovers, budget cuts recently caused the Inverleith House gallery to close its doors, Amah-Rose Abrams reports for artnet News. So far, almost 9,000 people have signed an online petition to save the art gallery, and last month more than 700 people demonstrated for the gallery to be saved, Clare Henry reports for ARTnews. But as of now, while the botanic gardens are exploring the possibility of installing art pieces around the grounds, it appears that Inverleith House won’t be hosting any more gallery exhibitions. To mark its past life as a hub of Scotland’s contemporary art scene, here are four of Inverleith House’s memorable exhibitions:

“I still believe in miracles…”

The last of Inverleith House’s exhibitions showcased a series of works by some of the greats of contemporary art. The show, which closed on October 23rd, celebrated the gallery’s 30th anniversary, and it featured new and existing works by artists like Isa Genzken, Louise Bourgeois and Richard Wright, as well as a collection of drawings from the archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and the Linnean Society, Neil Cooper writes for The List. By exhibiting botanic and scientific illustrations of the natural world alongside challenging and experimental artworks, “I still believe in miracles…” was intended in part to highlight the unique nature of the gallery and its place amongst one of the United Kingdom’s most beautiful gardens.

“Invented Acoustical Tools”

Artist and experimental musician Tony Conrad has been a fixture of the American art scene since his time hanging out with Andy Warhol at the Factory in the 1960s, but just a few years ago Inverleith House hosted his first-ever Scottish solo show. Titled “Invented Acoustical Tools,” the 2014 exhibition featured a series of instruments deconstructed and re-designed by Conrad, like a bagpipe made out of a plastic bag and a whistle, or a drums with holes cut out of their skins so one could play them with a violin bow, The Herald Scotland reported. The instruments weren’t just contemporary art—they also made contemporary music as Conrad put on a live show with his assembled "acoustical tools."

“John Chamberlain”

The 2015 John Chamberlain retrospective was another first for Inverleith House—it marked the U.K. debut exhibition of the late American sculptor known for reusing materials from old cars. Featuring a mix of sculptures spanning his 60-year career, the retrospective included pieces like a shimmering purple piece of metal titled “It Ain’t Cheap” and “Stuffed Dogs,” a series of twisted pieces of foam rubber. Chamberlain manipulated unwieldy hunks of scrap metal in his sculptures and the work had a fluidity that made it seem right at home in the Scottish cottage and gardens, Laura Cumming at The Guardian commented.

"All Divided Selves"

Luke Fowler Inverleith
'Luke Fowler with Toshiya Tsunoda and John Haynes', Inverleith House, Edinburgh, 2012 Photo: Michael Wolchover/Courtesy of The Modern Institute, Andrew Hamilton/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow 

Named after artist and filmmaker Luke Fowler’s found-footage documentary, Inverleith House’s 2012 “All Divided Selves” exhibition featured a mix of new collaborative works with sound artist Toshiya Tsunoda as well as some of Fowler’s older pieces. Mostly made up of film screenings and portraits by photographer John Haynes, it also included Tsunoda’s “Stereophony of the Tortoise”—a piece made from the recorded sounds of a living tortoise roaming around the gallery space, Brian Beadie wrote for Kiltr. For Fowler, displaying his work at Inverleith House was more than just showing his work at another exhibition.

“I’ve been going there since I was a boy; sometimes it was my only reason to go to Edinburgh,” Fowler told Beadie. “[Curator Paul Nesbitt] has created a revolutionary project over the years, addressing the changes in the medium, but never following fashion. They always punched above their weight in terms of the money they had.”

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