Spring is traditionally a time of birth and rebirth, so it’s appropriate that this May has seen the reopening of two of Edinburgh’s most important places for contemporary art. In the heart of the city, commercial gallery Ingleby Gallery has relocated in grand style to a former church meeting house. Meanwhile, outside of town, sculpture park and art gallery Jupiter Artland has awakened from its winter slumber with an exhibition of work by Joana Vasconcelos and the unveiling of a new permanent commission by Phyllida Barlow. Both organizations were conceived by husband-and-wife teams, and both are now celebrating significant anniversaries: 20 years for Ingleby Gallery, ten for Jupiter Artland.
Edinburgh is a small city, whose art scene is not nearly as celebrated as that of neighbouring Glasgow. But there are a number of grassroots initiatives such as Hidden Door festival (25 May – 3 June) and artist-run spaces DOK, The Number Shop, Embassy Gallery and Rhubarba as well as impressive national museums and galleries. The summer opening of contemporary art organization Collective’s new space – involving a major renovation of the 19th-century former observatory atop Carlton Hill in the centre of the city – is also eagerly anticipated. But with the major contemporary art venues such as Fruitmarket, Talbot Rice and Stills each programming just a handful of exhibitions a year, organizations such as Jupiter Artland and Ingleby play an even more vital role.
As Edinburgh’s only commercial gallery, the reopening of Ingleby Gallery is a significant occasion. Run by Richard and Florence Ingleby, the gallery represents a roster of important Scottish and international artists, including Charles Avery, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Katie Paterson, and Sean Scully. In its 20-year history, the gallery has occupied several spaces in the city: first, a handsome Georgian town house on Carlton Terrace, which remains the family home; then a vast space over three floors of an 1870s building on Calton Road, which was the UK’s largest commercial gallery outside of London when it opened in 2008. After deciding to sell that building eight years later, Ingleby Gallery returned temporarily to Carlton Terrace. The gallery’s new home, in the 1834 meeting house of the nonconformist Glasite Church, is their finest yet.
Inaugurating the new gallery is a solo exhibition by Callum Innes, who took part in Ingleby’s very first show back in 1998. Five new large-scale paintings (all 2018) from the artist’s ‘Exposed Paintings’ series, first begun in the 1990s, hang in the beautiful main gallery. This was formerly occupied with pews and a large pulpit, but with the octagonal stained-glass dome cleaned for the first time in 150 years, the room is now a hymn in praise of light and space. As the May morning sunlight casts yellow patterns across the wall, Innes’ blue paintings – produced using the artist’s trademark technique of paint application and removal – seem surprisingly delicate despite their scale. The Scottish sunlight will doubtless provide the occasional difficulty as well as moments of beauty but Innes, whose studio is only a few hundred yards away, seems to have embraced the small loss of control that comes with exhibiting in this kind of environment.
The restoration of the building by Helen Lucas Architects is a triumph of sensitive good taste. In an act of generosity and celebration, the Inglebys have decided to open the entire building to the public, at least for the next few weeks. On display across multiple office spaces (once accommodation for the housekeeper) and the former feasting hall on the first floor is a multitude of works celebrating the gallery’s 20-year history. In the kitchen, works by Ian Hamilton Finlay hang next to the original meeting house sign. On the mantelpiece of Richard’s own office is a pebble he picked up from the beach, whose form echoes that of an Ellsworth Kelly silkscreen nearby. ‘We want to encourage people to see contemporary art in a domestic environment,’ says Florence.
If the interaction between Innes’ work and the environment is a subtle one, then that of Phyllida Barlow at Jupiter Artland is much more dramatic. Housed in the grounds of Jacobean-style Bonnington House four miles west of Edinburgh, Jupiter Artland was founded in 2008 by sculptor Nicky Wilson and her husband, alternative healthcare millionaire Robert. Today, the landscaped estate is home to numerous outdoor art commissions by artists such as Antony Gormley, Cornelia Parker, and Tania Kovats as well as Hamilton Finlay and his son Alec.
The best-known work on the estate is Charles Jencks’ Life Mounds (2005), a series of swirling turfed earthworks but personal highlights include Andy Goldsworth’s Stone Coppice (2009) and Nathan Coley’s In Memory (2010), a series of headstones with names removed set inside a poured concrete enclosure in the woods. Anya Gallaccio’s The Light Pours Out of Me (2012), an underground grotto of amethyst protected by gold barbed wire. (Gallaccio, incidentally, has just installed a new work at Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island, Berwick-upon-Tweed.) Barlow’s new addition, Quarry (2018), stands not far from Gallaccio’s: two huge totem-like columns in echo of the nearby oak and beech trees. In addition is a large pile of stone-like steps that reminds me of the follies of Fontainebleu forest installed in the 19th century by Claude-François Denecourt. From 28 July, the grounds will also host a new temporary installation by UK-based Ollie Dook.
Following the recent arrival of Claire Feeley as the new head of exhibitions and audience development, Jupiter Artland is celebrating its 20th birthday with a new book and a new initiative: Pay What You Want Mondays. On the sunny Monday of my visit, the place is happily abuzz with families and young children, while a pair of swans have made a nest among the Japanese bells of Christian Boltanski’s Animitas (2016). They swim in the pond accompanied by their three cygnets as coots and humans wander by. Summer’s not far away.
Main image: Phyllida Barlow, Quarry, 2018. Courtesy: Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh; photograph: Anna Kunst