Details of three major Edinburgh Art Festival commissions, supported by the Scottish Governments Expo Fund, were announced today, Monday 24 August 2009. Internationally acclaimed Scottish artists Richard Wright and Martin Creed will each make a new work: Wright will make a major new painting at the Dean Gallery and Creed is set to create a public work in the centre of the city. The third commission will introduce Scotlands new generation of visual arts talent to the international audience at the summer Festivals. All the works will be unveiled at the opening of the 2010 Edinburgh Art Festival
Culture Minister Michael Russell said: During these festivals, Edinburgh is the cultural capital of the world and a flourishing centre for the visual arts, with our rich architectural heritage and internationally admired galleries and artists.
The Art Festival commissions, supported by Expo funding, will not only see new works from two acclaimed Scottish contemporary artists animating historic spaces, but offer an unrivalled opportunity for emerging artists to make and display new work at next years internationally renowned Festivals. That is exactly what our Expo fund is for creating new work from Scotland and showcasing it on the international stage thus raising our cultural profile worldwide.
These innovative projects will attract more people to the artwork by offering them the opportunity to experience visual arts in imaginative and exciting ways and in new spaces, reaching out to those who seldom visit galleries or more traditional venues.
Joanne Brown, Director of Edinburgh Art Festival added: The Edinburgh Art Festival is a key platform for the capitals galleries and artists. Although the Festival does not curate exhibitions we support the galleries and artists who make and show work.
We are delighted that the grant from the Governments Expo Fund has allowed us to support the commission of works from leading Scottish artists of their generation enabling both the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and The Fruitmarket Gallery to curate exciting new projects, and also to invest in Scotlands Future by commissioning an emerging artist.
As we look towards the Olympic and Commonwealth games creating opportunities for the next generation is at the forefront of our minds. We are particularly pleased that a new generation of visual artists will be supported and developed through the commission.
The Stairwells Project
The Stairwells Project at the Dean Gallery will see 2009 Turner Prize nominee, Richard Wright, make a major new painting on the fabric of Thomas Hamiltons Dean Orphan Hospital, now the Dean Gallery, part of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The Dean Gallery is one of Thomas Hamiltons most important buildings and the stairwells, both outside and inside, are key features of his design. Both of the stairwells will be made available to Richard for his work.
The Buildings of Scotland volume on Edinburgh describes the inside of the stairwells thus: their great height is exaggerated by inward inclination at the clearstorey stage. This is indeed one of their key features. The inward inclination of the windows makes it look as if the towers are falling in on themselves. It is a very dramatic effect. The other major and singular feature of the stairwells is the exaggerated height of the banisters. This is so that the orphans could not climb on to them to slide down and possibly hurt themselves.
The design gives an Alice-in-Wonderland effect to the stairwells, says Keith Hartley, Chief Curator and Depute Director of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. It is as if they had been built for giants. The idea of having twin stairwells is that one would be for the girls, the other for the boys. All of this provides a rich visual vocabulary and historical context for Richard Wrights wall-painting.
Ever since Richard Wright made two exquisite, but ephemeral wall paintings for our exhibition Correspondences: Art from Scotland and Berlin in 1997,we have wanted to have a permanent painting by the artist in one of our Gallery buildings. When the opportunity came to apply to the Scottish Governments Expo Fund to commission Richard to make a major painting in the Dean Gallery, we seized the opportunity eagerly. We are delighted that we were successful in being selected and look forward to working with the artist and the Edinburgh Art Festival in the coming months.
Richard Wright added I am delighted to be able to make my biggest artwork to date here at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
The Scotsman Steps Project
Meanwhile, in the city centre 2001 Turner Prize winner, Martin Creed, will make a new work on Edinburghs historic Scotsman Steps. Curated by Fiona Bradley of the Fruitmaket Gallery, the work will premiere at the 2010 Edinburgh Art Festival as a destination artwork within Edinburghs World Heritage Site.
The Scotsman Steps are an historic artery between Edinburghs old and new towns, says Fiona Bradley. Siting an artwork on the Steps will bring Martins work to the attention of people who use the Steps, but who would not normally consider themselves an audience for art. At the same time a new work by a Scottish artist of such high international repute will raise the profile of The Steps, encouraging art audiences, who will seek the work out, to use this landmark highway.
The Steps, which are presently somewhat dilapidated, have been identified by Edinburgh City Council and Edinburgh World Heritage as a priority for refurbishment. This work is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2010 summer festivals with Martin Creeds artwork a key part of the refurbishment.
Built into the fabric of Edinburgh, Martins work will engage audiences outside the gallery environment, becoming part of their everyday experience of navigating through the city and highlighting the Scotsman Steps existence and purpose they have historically always been designated as a road, linking the old and new towns. The work will also challenge audiences, encouraging them, as much of Creeds work does, to think again about how they inhabit the world.
Commenting on the opportunity that the Expo commission offers, Martin Creed said:
It will be great to be back in Scotland. I am happy, excited and nervous to be playing at home.