Historic art show returns to McLellan Galleries

From todays The Herald newspaper:

Published on 25 April 2013, The Herald

Written by Phil Miller @PhilipJEMiller

ONE of the oldest-running art exhibitions in Scotland is about to return to its historical home at the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow, which has been closed for seven years.

Last night, the board of the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts (RGI) heard that the body, which first held its annual art show in 1861, is planning to stage its yearly exhibition at the historic venue.

The city-centre galleries will be the venue for a “pop-up” exhibition in November for the 152nd Annual Exhibition, which will cost the RGI £100,000 to stage.

Karin Currie, president of the RGI, said the alternatives to staging the exhibition at the galleries involved either attempting to find a venue outside the city for the first time, or the “slow death of the RGI”. The exhibition, the first to be held at the McLellan for the RGI after several years of being held at the Mitchell Library, will also give the public a chance to see inside the galleries since it closed to the public in 2006.

The long-term future of the elegant but empty Sauchiehall Street galleries is still uncertain.

Ms Currie said of the cost involved in using the galleries: “This does seem to be an extraordinary amount of money that’s required, given that the galleries are essentially in very good condition. It also means drawing substantially on our reserves.

“The RGI council has unanimously agreed this is exactly the kind of opportunity our reserves are for, that the venture is entirely compatible with the RGI’s aims and purpose – and that the alternative is the slow death of the RGI.”

She said the arts body strongly believed there was an economic and cultural future for the galleries, and that the RGI “should be in the vanguard, contributing to its regeneration”.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council, which owns the galleries, said: “The council has been in discussions with the RGI over the use of the McLellan Galleries for their annual exhibition later in the year.

“We have provided budget costs for the RGI to consider and agree, and the proposals will be developed over the next few months.”

In recent years, the McLellan Galleries have languished in obscurity in the city centre, and are closed to the public. The large display spaces are in good condition, but are currently empty and without a full-time use.

The RGI’s first annual exhibition in 1861 was at the McLellan Galleries and the building hosted it until the galleries had to house the collections of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum while it was being renovated.

Built in 1856, the galleries are named after Archibald McLellan, a coach builder, councillor and influential patron of the arts.

In the 1980s, a fire damaged the galleries, but it reopened in 1990.

While Kelvingrove was closed for refurbishment between 2003 and 2006, the McLellan Galleries hosted a display of its most famous works.

The RGI was formed in 1861 when 10 prominent Glasgow citizens met to discuss establishing exhibitions of the work of living artists.

By the end of the 19th century, many leading UK and European painters were displaying their work at the exhibition, with French painting influencing the Glasgow Boys, who went on to display their own work at the show.

Well-known artists who have the official RGI title – only 50 at any one time – include William Baillie, Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, Shona Kinloch and John Knox.


Guidelines for artists who with to submit to this exhibition will be available from the RGI from 29th May 2013

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