Artists and ecologists join forces to tackle climate crisis in leading arts venue

It has served as a home from home for numerous Turner Prize winners and brought some of the finest contemporary art to Scottish audiences.
The 18th century Inverleith House is to be rebranded Climate House as part of the initiative. Picture: RBGEThe 18th century Inverleith House is to be rebranded Climate House as part of the initiative. Picture: RBGE
The 18th century Inverleith House is to be rebranded Climate House as part of the initiative. Picture: RBGE

Now, Inverleith House, the grand 18th century building at the heart of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, is to undergo perhaps its most dramatic transformation yet.

The historic property is to be rebranded as Climate House part of a pioneering, three year-long project which will see artists collaborate with ecologists

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In what has been described as the beginning of a new era for the historic property, the project aims to engage with some of the key issues surrounding the climate crisis.

The partnership between the world-renowned scientific centre for the study of plants and Serpentine Galleries aims to highlight the global risk to biodiversity through a range of exhibitions and projects throughout 2021 and beyond.

Keg De Souza, the acclaimed Australian artist, will be creating what has been described as a “transformative space,” while Christine Borland, the Turner Prize-nominated artist, will be taking a new solo to the venue.

Other artists from across Scotland and the world will also be taking part, including James Bridle, Kapwani Kiwanga, and Fernando Garcia-Dory.

But it is perhaps another strand of the initiative which promises to be the most forward thinking. As well as exhibitions, the Climate House project will bring together artists, environmentalists, and scientists, as well as activists and policymakers, in a new think tank called the General Ecology Network.

The entire initiative has been made possible by a £150,000 award from the Outset Contemporary Art Fund, which said it wanted to help support cultural institutions being rocked by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The reinvention of Inverleith House caps a remarkable transformation in fortunes for the building, which was designed in 1774 by David Henderson for the Rocheid family before becoming the founding home of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1960.

It has been home to a near continuous programme of temporary exhibitions for close to 35 years, but a controversial and short-lived plan to close its gallery four years ago sparked an outcry, with more than 10,000 people signing a petition to save the space.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But with the RBGE currently marking its 350th anniversary, it described the plans for Climate House as a way of “amplifying” the priorities it holds dear.

Read More
Nearly one in three workers in visual arts sector lose entire April income due t...

Emma Nicolson, head of creative programmes at the garden, said that Inverleith House’s “proximity to the world of plants” and the RBGE’s rich history of scholarship meant it had an “abundance of resources” with which to respond to the climate crisis.

Simon Milne, the RBGE’s regius keeper at the garden, said: “The world’s life support systems are in a hazardous state and the impact on the health and wellbeing of people across the continents is both apparent and frightening.

“The specialist work of the RBGE, as an international leader in plant science, conservation and education, has never been more important in local, national and global efforts to address the huge and interconnected challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change.

He added: “Climate House constructs a brilliant and visionary transition of Inverleith House. It will amply the institute’s priorities, developing an arts programme that integrates existing and new artistic events and exhibitions with our core environmental work.”

The official presentation of the £150,000 Outset Transform Award will take place today.

Candida Gertler, co-founder of the Outset Contemporary Art Fund, said: “In these uncertain times, it is notable that the areas that have really proven supportive, generous, and open across all borders are the sciences, and the arts.

“We have seen artists, institutions, and platforms make content freely available in an unprecedented way. In the face of extraordinary uncertainty, artists, galleries, and museums have reached out and offered moments of connection and of reflection on the future beyond this time of crisis.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Outset Partners felt compelled to act in a manner that echoes this spirit of generosity, by offering an injection of support and confidence in the future of the projects that were submitted to our open call.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director

Related topics:



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.