The place to head for the city’s biggest blockbuster group shows and solo retrospectives
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is a complex of two large buildings on opposite sides of Belford Road, a short walk to the west of the city centre, which house regular high-profile contemporary art exhibitions and play host to the Scottish National Galleries’ permanent display of works from its contemporary collection. The main building (Modern Art One) is a grand neo-classical former school for fatherless children dating back to 1825, which became the nation’s Gallery of Modern Art in 1984. The second site (Modern Art Two) was converted in 1999 from the former Dean Orphan Hospital, built in 1833, to house the galleries’ collection of Dada and Surrealist works, and to exhibit their collection of work by famed Edinburgh pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi. Until a recent rebranding it was known separately as the Dean Gallery.
Modern One is the largest of the two exhibiting spaces, and in recent years has held retrospective exhibitions by artists like Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin, as well as numerous blockbuster group shows. Its setting is renowned, with a large, bright summer garden outside the much-appreciated basement café and a walkway to the rear which leads to the idyllic Water of Leith. There are also numerous landmark permanent exhibits in its grounds, including Barbara Hepworth’s Conversation with Magic Stones sculpture and Charles Jencks’ Landform Ueda ‘land sculpture’, while Martin Creed’s Everything is Going to be Alright (these words written above the entrance in bright blue lettering) is becoming one of the city’s symbolic images.
Modern Two is a smaller space, although still a grand one, with much of its ground floor taken up with exhibits of Dadaist and Surrealist work. It also contains Paolozzi’s Studio, a recreation of the late Leith-raised, Italian-Scots pop artist and sculptor’s studio, which is filled with small work-in-progress pieces. His finished work is also on display elsewhere in the gallery, including the café, where the giant metal figure Vulcan stands to almost the full height of the building. The upstairs galleries are used for temporary exhibitions which usually offer an overview of a particular school or period of art.
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