Recession-hit shop fronts give exhibition space to city's artistic talents

THE blight of empty shops, with their soaped up windows and prominent To Let signs, has become a grim reminder of the recession in every city centre.

But now Scotland's biggest city has turned the growing number of empty shop fronts into an opportunity to promote talented young artists.

Glasgow is being transformed into an "open air art gallery" with vacant shop windows displaying artworks by up-and-coming painters alongside established figures such as Peter Howson.

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The idea, inspired by artist Tracy Emin's takeover of a vacant shop during the early Nineties recession, is intended to cement the city's reputation as a hotbed of cultural activity.

Organisers also hope it will reduce the visual impact of the recession, encouraging shoppers to keep spending in those shops that survive the downturn.

One of the artists taking part, Frank To, will be displaying three pictures in an empty shop front in Glasgow's St Vincent Street, previously a food outlet.

Mr To, of Chinese origin but raised in Glasgow, said: "Every artist knows how difficult it can be to get work exhibited. Getting your stuff out there and seen is vital, it's the reason we do what we do.

"So having all these empty shops just sitting their doing nothing is frustrating for us. It's great to see something happening that allows us to use this empty space.

"Of course, if it can help improve the look and feel of the city, and encourage people to shop. It's quite depressing looking at rows and rows of empty shops. Hopefully we can brighten the city up a bit."

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Jane Harrison, Glasgow's City Centre Initiatives Manager, said: "Vacant shop units are a magnet for fly posting and graffiti artists and this imaginative project keeps these empty units in the city centre looking presentable while prospective tenants are sought. It also allows dramatic artworks by Glasgow artists to be enjoyed by shoppers and visitors."