NEW ARTS VENUES
PHOENIX-LIKE DUNDEE IS RISING from its past. The city long associated with jam. jute and the daily life of The Broons. is undergoing a make-over. The last shipment ofjute arrived in the city a few months back, the jam business is on a sticky wicket and. while the Sunday Post‘s family cartoon continues to be loved. modern Dundee is more concerned with service industries than the misadventures of The Bairn. Dundee has an international reputation as a European centre for computer game design and is at the forefront of medical research. What’s more. as with any self- respecting city reinvention programme, Dundee is to unveil a new arts centre.
The analogy that springs to mind is the once little-known northern Spanish town of Bilbao which hit the world’s headlines in 1997 thanks to the opening of Frank Gehry‘s silvery and gloriously curvaceous Guggenheim Museum. Not that the £9m Dundee Contemporary Arts is emulating that showy architectural pile — the DCA is about people.
‘The Guggenheim is an incredibly expensive sculpture that won’t stand the test of time,’ says Edinburgh-based DCA architect. Richard Murphy, whose past work includes the refurbishment of
Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery. ‘It is easy to shock with the outlandish, but it is absolutely vital to make a building that people can use. Curiousity is what it is about. Taking people through the space, exciting possibilities.’
Overlooking the River Tay, a stone’s throw from Dundee Rep Theatre and standing cheek by jowl to the Catholic Cathedral, the DCA is part the refurbishment of a one-time garage and part the construction of a new building. The result is an L-shaped structure emphasising clear-cut architecture and a generous free-ﬂow of space. Stand in the entrance foyer and you are delivered a vista of space played out on a multitude of levels and views of the river.
The DCA is home not only to two cinemas and art galleries but to the Print Studio and the University of Dundee Visual Research Centre. For DCA’s director, Andrew Nairne, formerly the head of Visual Arts at the Scottish Arts Council, this makes for both a venue and a unique resource centre.
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‘We want to create a highly enjoyable building which includes a range of facilities of a serious scale and standard. which is connected to the city. not isolated but part of the bloodstream,” he says.
Nairne hopes the casual visitor enjoying a latte and croissant in the appropriately named Jute Cafe Bar will go on to take in an exhibition. see a film or sign on for a printmaking course. And while wanting to root the DCA first and foremost in the needs of the local population — there is a wide- ranging education and community programme — Nairne believes that it is the fact that they are offering the ‘best of new contemporary art‘ that will motivate central belters to make the hour and 40 minute journey to Dundee. The DCA clearly wishes to court internationalism not provincialism.
The two galleries will make W9 war” to the DCA one of the largest set a new temporary art show spaces in Scotland. .\'airne. long a agenda' to
supporter of home-grown artist have a sense talent. insists that the DCA will of passion!
take Scotland‘s globally
recognised artists seriously. Andrew Naime.DCA
something that many artists feel has been neglected by the country‘s other major up and running art spaces.
‘If the DCA can take the initiative to show Scottish artists who are getting exhibitions throughout Europe. then hopefully the major art venues in Glasgow and Edinburgh will follow the lead.’ says Robert Johnston. an artist and committee member of Glasgow‘s Transmission Gallery.
Not that Nairne plans to tug his forelock to the art community. With 650.000 people living within one hour travelling time from Dundee. and with an exhibitions budget for 1999/2000 of £235,000 the DCA wants to deliver both to the local population and put Dundee on the world‘s art map.
The line-up of exhibitions to date is impressive. The DCA is the only L'K-venue for a retrospective of the US photojournalist W. Eugene Smith. and later this year they will put on the first major show since 1994 of work by the Glasgow-based and Turner Prize shortlisted artist Christine Borland. ‘We want to set a new agenda, to have a sense of passion.‘ says .\'airne.
Dundee Contemporary Arts, 152 Nethergate, Dundee is open from Sat 20 Mar, Mon-Sun, 11am-11pm. The galleries and shop are open Tue-Sun, 11.30am-7.30pm. Admission free. For general information, cinema programme and booking call 01382 432000.