A huge new treasure trove to care for Scotland’s finest works of art is to be created on Edinburgh’s waterfront – to help“safeguard the future” of centuries of paintings, drawings and sculpture.
The National Galleries of Scotland, which cares for the country’s most significant collection of art, is pursuing plans for a multi-million pound complex after being donated a parcel of land by the Scottish Government.
The organisation says it has been given the “opportunity of a lifetime” to create a world-class purpose-built archive, conservation and research centre close to the site of the former Granton gasworks.
People of all ages would be encouraged to visit the new National Collections Facility to learn about and explore highlights from the collection, access to which is highly restricted at the moment.
The National Galleries of Scotland, which has three major attractions in Edinburgh, is responsible for almost 100,000 works dating from the early Renaissance period to the present day.
Scottish artists represented include Allan Ramsay, Sir Henry Raeburn, John Bellany, Joan Eardley, Eduardo Paolozzi, Francis Cadell, Alison Watt and John Byrne.
However its collections are stored in various sites, including a facility at the National Gallery of Modern Art and a small centre in Granton, close to where the National Museum of Scotland opened a new £12 million facility last year.
The unused site – close to the listed former Granton gas tower and Edinburgh College’s campus – earmarked for the new development includes the remains of the oldest purpose-built car factory in the UK, which has been previously been earmarked for demolition, but could now be saved. Galleries chiefs have been exploring the possibility of new facility in the area for around a year and a half. It has recently acquired the sit and plans to lodge a planning application for the new facility by the end of the year.
The centre would be the next major project for the organisation following the planned completion of work to overhaul and extend the Scottish National Gallery in 2018.
The galleries collections centre is being planned after a decade-long operation by the National Museum of Scotland to bring together around 12 million items onto the one site at an adjacent site it has occupied in Granton since 1972.
Patricia Convery, director of audience engagement at NGS, said: “We’ve been grappling for some time with trying to sort out the future of our collections, including the storage of it, how we maintain and provide access to the public.
“We have an art store in Granton at the moment, but it’s really quite small compared to what we need now. The rest of the collection is in pockets around the city. We need much more space and really want to do a lot more with the collection as well.”
John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries, said: “Anew National Collections Facility will provide first-rate conditions not just for looking after our collection but also for researching it and sharing it more widely. It will also greatly reduce our overall energy usage and costs and will allow us to work with the community to create a positive future for the local area.”
Mark Harris, senior development manager at the EDI Group, which is overseeing the Granton waterfront regeneration, said: “This development will have a significant impact on the wider regeneration of the area creating jobs and attracting further investment opportunities, as well as providing a cultural destination for people to visit and enjoy.”