National Galleries of Scotland announce 2021 highlights

An exhibition revealing a major body of new work by the celebrated painter Alison Watt leads the 2021 programme at the National Galleries of Scotland.

Centifolia, by Alison Watt

Alison Watt: A Portrait without Likeness will present a selection of paintings made in response to the art and practice of 18th-century portrait artist Allan Ramsay, and open at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in July.

Visitors to the Galleries will be able to immerse themselves in an exhibition of photographs by Thomas Joshua Cooper, made in some of the world’s most extreme and remote locations. They will be on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG) from July.

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Also on show at the SNPG will be Ruined: Reinventing Scotland’s History, the fruits of a four-year project which has seen 200 young people from communities across Scotland radically reimagine the nation’s past through art.

Displayed at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One) and in partnership with Edinburgh Art Festival, the UK and European premiere of Isaac Julien’s Lessons of the Hour will be a highlight of the 2021 Edinburgh Art Festival programme from 29 July to 29 August.

The major ten-screen installation reflects on the life and times of visionary African American writer and prominent abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who spent two years in Edinburgh in the 1840s campaigning across Scotland, England and Ireland for freedom and social justice.

The final new exhibition of the year, New Arrivals at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One), will celebrate the latest and greatest modern and contemporary art additions to Scotland’s national art collection when it opens in November.

More than 100 works by artists such as Salvador Dalí, Gwen John, Marc Chagal, Damien Hirst, Jenny Saville and Dorothea Tanning will be featured.

Completing the 2021 programme are current exhibitions at Modern Two and Modern One respectively: the critically-acclaimed show Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema celebrating the life, career and legacy of the late American filmmaker; and Joan Eardley & Catterline, which marks the much-loved artist and her work in the centenary year of her birth.

Sir John Leighton, Director-General of the National Galleries of Scotland, said: “With all our galleries now open again, we are thrilled to share our forthcoming exhibitions programme. As Scotland looks toward a period of recovery and renewal from the coronavirus pandemic, we are excited about giving our visitors the opportunity to engage with an inspiring offering across all our galleries. Whether that be through the work of Alison Watt, Isaac Julien, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Joan Eardley or the cinematic hits of Ray Harryhausen, there will be something special for everyone to discover.”

Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery said: “We’re pleased to be supporting the National Galleries of Scotland to bring an exciting programme of exhibitions to Edinburgh. We hope they will provide visitors with an opportunity to make new discoveries as well as revisiting old favourites, and we invite everyone to plan a visit.”​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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