This month the Scottish Arts Council mounts a major international art exhibition at
the Royal Scottish Academy. Edinburgh. The aim is to demonstrate Edinburgh‘s
cultural importance — even outwith the Festival. Sally Kinnes reports. while Alice
Bain investigates (over page) how. ironically. another exhibition designed to run alongside it has been cancelled.
CLASH F TRADITIONS
In 197‘) the first British Art Show. a touring exhibition organised by the Arts Council of Great Britian as a survey ofcontemporary British art every five years. didn‘t make it to Scotland. despite its theme; in 1990. it is hoped the third show in the series will open in Glasgow as the first major exhibition to be held there in its year as European City of Culture. It‘s a measure of how far. in Britain at least. Scotland has put itselfon the cult' ral map.
The Scottish Arts Council‘s forthcoming ‘blockbuster‘ exhibition. Edinburgh International. similarly re-asserts the fact that Edinburgh works as a city artistically outwith the Festival. It‘s an attempt to make ‘a more balanced cultural provision during the rest ofthe year given that there‘s a feeling that everything is concentrated into those three weeks during August‘ says James Bustard. Exhibitions ()rganiser of the SAC. It will bring together work by nineteen international contemporary artists and it‘s very much a selling point of the exhibition that it will not be touring. ‘We never considered taking it to London because it would have been reviewed in London and
we would have lost out here‘ says James Bustard. 'I see no reason why for once people should not come
I here to catch up on what‘s been
going on rather than inevitably going to the Whitechapel Gallery in London or somewhere abroad.‘
It‘s certainly a welcome initiative for major exhibitions often don't tour to Scotland. Part of the problem is the lack of a large permanent space which can be regularly made available for major touring shows. since existing galleries have a responsibility to their own permanent collections and providing their own exhibitions. To mount the Edinburgh International exhibition the SAC will be leasing the Royal Scottish Academy on the Mound which according to Bustard is ‘probably the premier space throughout the whole of Scotland for exhibitions offine art.‘ ls there. then. an argument for Scotland to have a large and permanent gallery space along with the much called for opera house or theatre. ‘Personally. I would like to see one because it‘s very difficult working without a gallery.‘ says James Bustard. "I‘he best exhibitons are conceived with a particular space in mind though I
think its unlikely that we‘ll ever get one.‘
In its scope and size the exhibition is the first ofits kind to be mounted by the SAC. and in taking as its theme classical ideas in contemporary work it has perhaps erred on the side ofcaution; it will be showing no feminist art. no political work. no film. no video and no performance art. "I‘he works are mostly painting and traditional sculpture. There‘s one multi-media work and one which involves drawing directly on the wall. In terms ofart ofthe I980s that‘s quite convential media' admits James Bustard. ‘But one of the driving points of the exhibition is to try and address how artists today are working in a very confused period and when a sense ofdirection has perhaps been lost. Many are looking back to an earlier period when there was a greater consensus in art and society for models which could be followed.‘
The exhibition has been designed specifically with the 19th-century Royal Scottish Academy building in mind. Speaking in a tiny backroom in the Academy. his voice srﬂnetimes drowned by the sound ofelectric
CAPTIONS Lett: Carlo Maria j Mariani‘s 'Sogno Proletico‘. Below: Ian Hamilton Findlay's ‘Aphrodite otthe Terror'. Both
The List 11 Dec 1987—7Jan 19885