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I was told early on in my six-month arts fellowship in wee, bonnie Scotland that Glasgow is where you make art and Edinburgh is where you see it. Being situated outside of the Central Belt entirely, I have had the privilege of holding no allegiance to either of these truisms. Instead, I’ve been able to discern for myself the scope of Scotland’s radically diverse and undervalued contemporary art scene.
Much like Canadian artists who have to jump ship to “make it”, Scottish artists also look south and beyond for recognition. Like the rest of the art world, the majority has moved to Berlin, but that leaves the homeland as an isolated testing ground. Left alone to wrestle with their own formalist art legacies are new formalist artists such as Glasgow’s own Martin Boyce and Karla Black, two of four Turner Prize 2011 finalists, both of whom have also represented their country independently of Britain at the Venice Biennial in the past five years. A unique sense of Scottish identity has long been alive and strong, but even then, I am still not sure what constitutes Scottish art.
Martin Creed, Work No. 1059, 2011 (courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth; photograph: Gautier Deblonde)
Edinburgh remains best known for its flurry of festivals each summer, and every gallery lines up to be included in the madness by bringing in big international names like Anish Kapoor (at the University of Edinburgh), Hans Schabus (at Collective Gallery), Robert Rauschenberg (at Inverleith House), etc. The highlights remained outside of the festivals, however, from esteemed private gallery Ingleby Gallery’s consistently impressive group exhibition to Martin Creed’s Work No. 1059. Albeit, Creed’s reimagining of The Scotsman Steps was originally commissioned by Fruitmarket Gallery to open in time for the 2010 festival, but was delayed until early this summer. Coming upon them one day without the festival hype was a fantastic surprise and delight. Consisting of one hundred and four marble slabs, each different in colour and originating from all over the globe, that coat the long dilapidated Scotsman Steps (an important historical thoroughfare for Edinburgh’s markets that remains in constant use,), the work is the best public artwork I have seen anywhere . . .
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