Edinburgh’s City Art Centre to Reopen with New Exhibition to Mark 40th Anniversary

Edinburgh’s City Art Centre is to re-open its doors to the public on Saturday 12th September 2020 with a full range of new safety measures in place to ensure the safety of visitors and staff. The gallery reopens with two new exhibitions, City Art Centre at 40: Highlights from the City’s Art Collection marking the City Art Centre’s 40th anniversary and Bright Shadows: Scottish Art in the 1920s.

Having first opened its doors on 15th August 1980, heralded as combining; ‘Scotland’s largest air-conditioned fine art exhibition space, with specialist environmental and security facilities…a must for the display of world masterpieces’ the City Art Centre celebrated its 40th anniversary this month (15th August). As the gallery doors reopen and to mark the anniversary, the City Art Centre is mounting a special ‘highlights’ exhibition from the City’s collection of Scottish art. Widely recognized as being one of the finest in the country, the City’s collection numbers over 5,000 artworks ranging from some of the earliest views of Edinburgh to works by many of Scotland’s leading contemporary artists.

Bright Shadows: Scottish Art in the 1920sis a new exhibition exploring the work of Scottish artists during the 1920s – an evocative period of social, political and economic change which also opens on the 12th September as visitors are welcomed back to the gallery as it reopens.

In keeping with Government advice in order to protect and maintain the safety of our visitors and staff, the City Art Centre has introduced a range of new safety measures and procedures throughout the venue, including a one way system, installation of screens at reception, hand sanitiser stations, extra barriers and signage and staff will of course be wearing masks while offering visitors a very warm, socially distanced welcome. Visitors are asked wear face coverings and to pre-book free tickets for allocated time slots in advance via Edinburgh Museums website.

Other activities marking the 40th anniversary in the coming weeks include The City Art Centre is 40!, a curated digital exhibition of much-loved and favourite paintings chosen by past members of staff, artists and people closely involved with the City Art Centre over the years presented via Art UK’s ‘Curations’ series. Tessa Asquith-Lamb, one of our best-loved local artists, has created two special videos with the City Art Centre’s Public Programmes section to celebrate the milestone, featuring the artist’s favourite painting, ‘Tristan and Isolde’ by John Duncan. Asquith-Lamb tells us why Tristan and Isolde is so special, and demonstrates a special art activity everyone can do at home while we are not able to visit the gallery in person. 

When the City Art Centre reopens and looks forward to the next 40 years, the continued focus will be to champion historic and contemporary Scottish visual art and craft. The City’s art collection continues to grow, and going forward the curatorial team will actively seek to diversify the collection in the coming years to better reflect the range of artists and work being produced in Scotland today. Visitors will be able to see the fruit of this with a new exhibition of recent acquisitions next year.

David Patterson, Curatorial and Conservation Manager, City Art Centre said “We are thrilled to be reopening on the 12th September, and fittingly with two exhibitions drawn from our Scottish art collection. In the months and years to come, we’ll continue to shine the spotlight on Scottish artists of the past who have been overlooked in the story of Scottish art as well as curate major displays by some of the country’s leading artists past and present. The topography and people of Edinburgh will remain a consistent strand in our programming, as will the display of the finest contemporary and historic applied art and craft. We’ll continue to work with our partners Edinburgh Science Festival to bring some of the best Science and Art to a family audience, and our wonderful collection will continue to be shown throughout the year in a series of temporary exhibitions.”

Herbert Coutts, City Art Centre Curator (1971-1999) said: “Having been in at the birth of the City Art Centre, I am immensely proud of the myriad exhibitions it has sourced from all parts of the globe, and from its own important fine art collection. This remarkable achievement has been due to the creativity, commitment and hard work of its staff, past and present, which I hope will continue long into the future.”

Ian O’Riordan, City Art Centre Curator (1984-2015) said; “I can’t be dispassionate about the City Art Centre. I started working there on Monday 5th November 1984, my 31st birthday, and stayed for 30 years. We put on the most fantastic exhibitions and built up the most brilliant collection of Scottish art. In retrospect, it all feels truly amazing – what we managed to do and how hard we all worked. People came and loved it and kept coming back. It remains a fabulous place, still with loads of potential. In these challenging times, Edinburgh is truly lucky to have it. Here’s to the next 40 years!”

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener said: “Over the last 40 years our City Art Centre has hosted more than 500 exhibitions, housed works from across the globe and welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors. As we celebrate this milestone it’s a great opportunity to look back at our favourites over the years as well as look ahead to reopening our doors on September 12th.

“Our collection of Scottish art is one of the finest in the country and this special ‘highlights’ exhibition is a fantastic way to celebrate the past 40 years as well as welcome our community back. We wanted to mark this significant anniversary of a very special place and celebrate the city’s artistic collections in a safe way when we open our doors and gather together again.

“When it opened in 1980 the City Art Centre was designed to be more than a gallery, providing studio and meeting spaces for artists, craftspeople and art lovers. I’m very much looking forward to the exhibition and to welcoming visitors back when we reopen next week.”

City Art Centre at 40: Highlights from the City’s art collectionruns from 12th September – 18th October 2020. Bright Shadows: Scottish Art in the 1920s runs from 12th September – 6th June 2021.

Entry to both exhibitions is free, but pre-booking is essential, and can be done via the Edinburgh Museums website.

From 12th September the City Art Centre is open daily from 10am -5pm (last admission 4:20pm)

Jim Welsh

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