Empty gallery attracts 100,000 visitors after cancelled show

An empty art gallery has attracted more than 100,000 visitors after an artist cancelled her show.
Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow - ScotlandGallery of Modern Art in Glasgow - Scotland
Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow - Scotland

An empty art gallery has attracted more than 100,000 visitors after an artist cancelled her show.

Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art said the space left empty after Dutch artist Marlie Mul called off her show has been a surprise hit.

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She refused to produce any art for her exhibition, but suggested the show could go on, billed as “This Exhibition Has Been Cancelled”.

Visitors were greeted by 21 billboards on the windows from May to October, explaining the cancellation of the exhibition, which ran for five months.

The gallery’s curator Will Cooper said: “By removing what would traditionally be considered an art object we are instead presenting the gallery as an empty space, giving us a moment to question the value in turning over exhibition after exhibition after exhibition.”

Ms Mul blamed a lack of funding and issues with health and safety regulations for her decision not to display anything other than signs saying the show had been called off.

The Brussels-based artist said: “I specifically told the gallery to use the vacant space in which ever way they thought would be most suitable.

“It was their idea to use this as an opportunity for members of the public to apply to do events in the space.”

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There were 108,756 visitors to Gallery 1, on GoMA’s ground floor, while the cancelled exhibition was in place.

Renowned artist Frank To said GoMA’s reputation as an international hub for modern art meant visitors would have been keen to see the venue stripped back.

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The Perth College lecturer praised an initiative that saw the public invited to propose alternative uses for the space as being another reason for numbers being so high.

Mr To said: “I think Marlie Mul was not questioning the work in the space but the space itself, and that’s where a lot of contemporary art is at.

“Anything to do with taxpayers’ money gives the artist a moral obligation to give something back. The community projects are a reasonable way for artists to be accessing public money.”

But critics have pointed to more than £11,000 of public money being spent on the project. Glasgow Life, the arms-length body that manages the city’s galleries, confirmed £11,500 was allocated as a maximum expenditure, of which £11,077 was spent.