The essential gallery guide
Glasgow’s much- maligned GALLERY OF MODERN ART is finally ringing in the changes to make a space worthy of its city’s great contemporary artists, discovers Jack Mottram. E in l996, the Glasgow
Gallery of Modern Art has been criticised, and justly so, for apparently failing to notice that its launch coincided with an explosion in the city’s contemporary art scene. While the Beck’s Futures and Turner Prize committees handed out awards to up-and-coming Glaswegian artists, and the international art world wondered how a single city could produce such a wealth of talent, visitors to GOMA could be forgiven for thinking that no one had made an in the city for a decade.
New Acquisitions. a display of work selected by a Contemporary Art Purchase Panel for GOMA’s permanent collection. aims to right the wrongs of past policy and show that, at long last, the gallery is repositioning itself as a truly modem, truly Glaswegian space.
Most of the seven artists featured in New Acquisitions - Christine Borland, Roddy Buchanan, Graham Fagen, Toby Paterson, Ross Sinclair, Lucy Skaer and Hanneline Visnes — could be seen as conservative choices and, conversely, artworld eyebrows will doubtless be raised at the omission of others (Martin Boyce, Douglas Gordon and Jim Lambie all spring to mind). But, while the exhibition will be viewed as a sudden shift by the gallery-going public, curators Ben Hammond and Sean McGlashan are keen to point out that it represents a point in a long, continuing process.
‘We’re calling this the ﬁrst round of acquisitions,’ says Hammond. ‘And hopefully it represents a good cross-section of artists working in Glasgow. The artists in the show were chosen from a longlist, which includes 30 or 40 artists. It was a case of bringing in what we could to begin with, keeping in mind that it’s an ongoing process, and one that can build up momentum.’
Visitors to the exhibition might worry that the process is a little too ongoing — a piece by Lucy Skaer is away being restored, and Toby Paterson’s new wor (pictured) was not installed until 2 August, some three months after the show opened — but judged on the work that made it to the gallery on time, the harbingers are good.
First comes Gobstopper, Roddy Buchanan’s video of children holding their breath while being driven through the Clyde Tunnel, showing that care has been taken to include works that are not only by Glasgow- based artists, but also have local resonance. Next, Graham Fagen’s photographs of playground weaponry,
musing on childhood games of a different stripe, link up neatly with Buchanan’s work.
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42 rue LIST 5—12 Aug 2004
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'WE ARE INTERESTED IN BUYING SIGNIFICANT WORKS, RATHER THAN WHATEVER AN ARTIST HAS IN THEIR ST UDIO’
Christine Borland’s After a True Story — Giant and Fairy Tales follows and. besides being among the strongest works on show, ﬂags up another motivating factor behind the selections. ‘lt’s not her more famous piece.’ says McGlashan. ‘But it was one that secured Christine Borland’s Turner Prize nomination. an important piece historically.‘
Hammond. too, emphasises the care put into selecting work, pointing to Gobstopper as another example. ‘That was a key piece in Roddy’s Beck’s exhibition.’ he says. ‘And that exemplifies our interest in buying significant works, rather than whatever an artist has in their studio. We want works that have a provenance.’
The first three artists shown — and Toby Paterson — could all be considered safe choices. In the upper gallery. Norwegian-born Hanneline Visnes. who makes intricate paintings on shaped boards shows GOMA’s new willingness to take risks. “It could be seen as a gamble.’ McGlashin admits. ‘Because they are obviously less established than the other artists in the show. But it makes sense for us to buy artists showing so much promise, and it acts as an encouragement. simply showing those artists how much we think of them.’
It’s certainly been a long time coming, but in the wake of New Acquisitions, it looks likely that GOMA will no longer be seen as an embarrassment to Glasgow, but a source of civic pride. And, if the next round of purchasing proves as successful as the first. it won’t be long before the wasted years are forgotten.
New Acquistions, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow
The key moments and movements that have sh Glasgow’s art scene over the last ten years.
I Environmental Art What do David Shrigley. Christine Bonand. Martin Boyce. Roderick Buchanan. Graham Fagen and 1996 Turner Prize winner Douglas Gordon have in common? They all graduated from the Glasgow School of Art's Sculpture & Environmental Art course. While its inception predates the opening of GOMA, the ideas behind the course signalled a shift away from the figurative painters of the 19803 featured at the gallery. Emphasising context. public art and the artist as investigator. the course's inﬂuence extends beyond the impressive list of graduates.
I Modern Institute It's all well and good having a thriving scene. but without a commercial gallery to sell work artists are bound to drift away to established art centres. Founded in 1996, the gallery has done much to cement Glasgow's position in the international art world. as well as mounting shows by represented artists and international fellow travellers.
I Beck’s Futures With three Glasgow-based winners since the prize was launched in 2000 - Roddy Buchanan, Rosalind Nashashibi and Toby Paterson — the Beck's hasn‘t exactly harmed the city’s reputation as a hothouse.
I Zenomap The first ever independent Scottish pavilion at the 2003 Venice Biennale drew a good deal of ﬂak. perhaps fairly, for its emphasis on Glasgow artists. Glaswegians, of course. found the choices perfectly reasonable.
I Unusual Spaces While GOMA ignored them, young Glasgow artists were busily showing work in whatever spaces came to hand. Artist Cathy Wilkes turned her flat into a gallery. the Switchspace collective transformed domestic and commercial spaces. The trend continues with EmergeD's Vacant Shop Front project. and multi- purpose reclaimed spaces like the Chateau. (Jack Mottram)