Space for art

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DUncan Macmillan (7 March) writes that the Scottish ­Societies of Artists is being squeezed into a “tiny space” by the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) for its annual exhibition and charged a “considerable” rent for the privilege. This is simply not the case.

As has been the case for many years, the three artists’ societies now occupy the full exhibition spaces of the Royal Scottish Academy building, which is one of the largest spaces for showing art exhibitions anywhere in the British Isles.

The NGS maintains this Grade A-listed building at public expense and charges a minimal rent to the societies towards the costs of security, door staff, utilities, cleaning and a range of other costs that we incur with the exhibitions.

Duncan Macmillan fails to mention that these free exhibitions offer an opportunity for the artists to sell their work to the public.

I calculate that the artists are paying less than £6 a week towards our costs for every work that they show and, hopefully, sell, in a premier exhibition space in the centre of the capital.

NGS works closely with the three societies to offer every possible assistance with their exhibitions and we will continue to support their work.

We are pleased to acknowledge their very important role in the ecology of Scottish art, a point I made forcefully in my speech at the opening of these shows last week.

Rather than attack the NGS for doing its job, Duncan Macmillan should be putting his ­efforts into reviewing the shows and encouraging the public to collect the artists’ work. The 
viability and future of these ­important exhibitions surely ­depends primarily on the interest and enthusiasm of the art-buying public.

(Sir) John Leighton

Director-general

National Galleries of
Scotland

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