Stone Roses guitarist in the frame on festival's picture perfect line-up

THE reopening of the City Art Centre after a major refurbishment, an exhibition of work by Stone Roses guitarist John Squire and the opening of the City Observatory to the public are among the highlights of this year's Edinburgh Art Festival, it was announced today.

From 17th century Dutch landscapes to new work by international artists, 500 years of painting will feature in this year's event, which will take place in 48 galleries, 11 of which are participating for the first time.

Other highlights will include the exhibitions Edinburgh People, a series of images of Edinburgh people by the blind photographer Rosita McKenzie; Blockbuster Impressionist Gardens at National Gallery on The Mound, which will feature 90 major works; and Artist Room at the Scottish National Gallery, featuring work by the eccentric contemporary artists Gilbert & George.

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Unveiling the programme, director Joanne Brown said: "The seventh annual Art Festival showcases the strength and diversity of the visual arts in Edinburgh ensuring a platform during the summer festival period for this vibrant part of the city's cultural life."

Inspired by the legendary jazzman Miles Davis, former Stone Roses guitarist Squire's exhibition of new work, entitled Nefertiti, will come to The Henderson Gallery.

Following on from last year's acclaimed exhibition of work by British father of pop art, Sir Peter Blake, Edinburgh Printmakers will again explore the symbiotic relationship between the visual arts and music with Prints Of Darkness, 11 new works exploring record cover art.

This will be followed by Macpherson's Cave, new sculptural work by Robert Powell exploring the mythologising of Scottish history and the premiere of a specially-commissioned composition played on the Conon Doyle violin.

At the City Observatory, on Calton Hill, a specially-commissioned installation by Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth will see the public allowed access to the historic building for the first time in a number of years.

Ms Brown said: "We are particularly pleased this year to have been able to commission three artworks and a programme of interventions with support from the Scottish Government's Expo Fund.

"Richard Wright's new painting in the Dean Gallery of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth's installation in the City Observatory will be unveiled in the summer.

"Our the third commission, by 2001 Turner Prize winner Martin Creed, will be unveiled later in the year."