Spalding rounds up maior works for Glasgow art gallery

Work has started on converting the old library building just off Glasgow’s George Square into a new gallery of modern art. Lila Rawlings asks director Julian Spalding where the collection will come from.

One of the first things on Julian Spalding‘s agenda when he joined the Glasgow galleries back in 1989 was to find a budget for buying contemporary art. Six months after he arrived council leader Pat Lally called him into his office and asked him if£3 million would do the trick. Needless to say he didn't turn his nose up.

‘Given that Glasgow has produced some of the best modem artists working in Britain today. it seemed strange that you had to go to London. New York or Germany to see their paintings.‘ says Spalding. After considering a number of venues. The Royal Exchange building (aka Stirling‘s Library) in Glasgow’s city centre was chosen as the best place to house this new permanent collection. Scheduled to open in April I996. the building conversion cost is an estimated £73 million which Spalding describes as ‘a complex funding package made up of cash from the city council, various European organisations. tourist agencies and hopefully. some sponsorship.‘

Spalding's ideas of what ‘modem' art actually is will strongly influence what visitors will see when the doors open next year. ‘We’re calling it the gallery of modem art which strictly means “now” - the art of our time made by living artists.‘ he says. ‘We’re looking for art that has a lot ofcontent. that has something to say and says it well.‘ And Spalding is not shy about criticising what he sees as a tendency to be too self-referential. ‘Modern art has got itself into a rut.‘ he says. ‘lt's become a very academic thing that serves the interests of those professionally involved in the art world. museums. curators. people in art schools etc. I think that art is about communicating life experience and a whole range of human feelings that

The modern art gallery in Glasgow: ‘enough art for us all'

people can relate to.‘

By concentrating on this idea of shared human experience. he hopes to attract the widest possible range of visitors to the new gallery and to dispel the reverence that can too often shroud art institutions. The recent People '3 Preview show, which took a small selection from the new gallery‘s likely collection to Castlemilk's Fringe Gallery and Easterhouse Community Education Centre, demonstrates

Spalding‘s commitment to stimulating interest in the kind of work that will be found in the GGMA. Scottish artists will be well represented by Alan Davie. Peter Howson. John Bellany and Ian Hamilton Findlay among others. and there will a strong intemational presence that Spalding has described as ‘non-traditional and non-westem.‘ ‘l‘m interested in Aboriginal and Native American art where art has a function

' within the community and is still an

important part of life,‘ he says.

The gallery itself will be divided into four floors which will each take one of the four elements air. water. earth and fire as their individual themes. There will be some new unseen work. a number of special commissions as well as items previously exhibited in the McLellan and Kelvingrove galleries. ‘lt will constitute the largest permanent collection of modem art by living artists outside of the Tate in London.’ says Spalding.

This might come as a bit of a surprise to the Scottish National Gallery of Modem Art in Edinburgh. although Spalding is keen to play down any hint of competition. ‘In my view. the more we can interest people in modern art, the more they‘ll want to see.‘ he says. Can he foresee a time when the two galleries might find themselves bidding against each other for the same work of art and if so who would concede? ‘lt

‘Given that Glasgow has produced some of the best modern artists working in

Britain today, it seemed

strange that you had to go to London, New York or Germany to see their painting.’

would depend on who had the most money.‘ he replies. ‘Besides. there’s so much art out there that there‘s enough for us all.‘

Richard Calvocoissi. keeper of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, welcomes the development and commented ‘the more institutions collecting modern art the better'. He also revealed plans to set aside an exhibition space specifically for small- scale temporary exhibitions and installations and pledged the National Galleries of Scotland‘s commitment to supporting contemporary art. This series of temporary exhibitions will kick-off this autumn with a show of work by Scottish artists yet to announced.

Glasgow‘s status as an important city for the visual arts could be further reinforced by the National Galleries of Scotland’s plans fora new museum in the city. The preferred site is believed to be the former GPO in George Square. Detailed recommendations are due to be submitted to the Scottish secretary in June.

I Glasgow arts cash A new £100,000 fund for artists and art galleries in Glasgow was launched this week by the Glasgow Visual Arts Forum, which was set up earlier this year. Cash for the ’96 Fund was put up by the Scottish Arts Council and Glasgow City Council. The forum was set up to promote collaboration in the visual arts among Glasgow artists and lobby on their behalf. Membership of the forum is free in the first year and open to anybody interested in Glasgow's visual art scene. Contact the forum at PO Box I9. 285 George Street. Glasgow, for details.

I Mind matters The links between

mental health and the arts are examined at a forum which is being held as part ofthe continuing Out of Sight. Out of Mind exhibition at Kelvingrove museum and gallery in Glasgow. The speakers include writer Janice Galloway and art historian Paul Stirton. plus representatives from the Tron Theatre. Project Ability and the Grassmarket Project. The forum is on Saturday 20 May at Kelvingrove at 2pm. Call 014l 305 2650 to reserve a free ticket.

I CCA change The CCA has appointed a new director. Penny Rae. who arrives in Glasgow from Zimbabwe where she was development director for an arts project. Before working in Africa. Rae was dance officer at the Scottish Arts

Council and worked for the Phoenix Dance Company in Leeds. She replaces

Jo Beddoe who relaunched the CCA in October I993 after a series of financial disasters had threatend its existence.

I Market day Stallholders are wanted for a series of Sunday markets planned for the run up to the Tall Ships Race in Leith in Edinburgh. The all-day markets will be held every Sunday from ll June through into July. Unique Events. which is organising the markets. says it hopes they will be ‘more Camden Lock than lngliston‘ and is particularly keen to hear from food vendors. For details contact Unique on 0l3l 557 3990.

I Local heroes Local Greenpeace groups are sending walkers from all

over Britain to Dublin, where the lntemational Whaling Commission is holding its annual meeting. to protest against Norwegian whaling. The. Norwegian delegates will be pressing the commission to increase their whaling quota. For those who don‘t have the legs for the Dublin trip there will be a series of smaller sponsored walks on Sunday May 28 to highlight the issue. For details call freephone 0800 374428.

I Women’s rally Amnesty lntemational is organising a women's rights march in Edinburgh on Sunday 28 May starting from Waterloo Place at 2pm. This will be followed by a rally/picnic in Princes Street Gardens. Contact ()l3l 557 2957.

The List 19 May-l Jun 1995 5