Fruitmarket Gallery reopening delayed as campaign is launched to help bridge new funding gap

The unveiling of a multi-million pound expansion of one of Scotland's leading art galleries to create a new space for live music, theatre, dance and spoken events has been delayed and is facing a major funding shortfall after work was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

How the new-look Fruitmarket will look once its expansion and refurbishment is complete. Picture: Reiach & Hall
How the new-look Fruitmarket will look once its expansion and refurbishment is complete. Picture: Reiach & Hall

Nearly £400,000 needs to be found to finish off the long-awaited redevelopment of the Fruitmarket Gallery, in Edinburgh, as bosses admitted that the pandemic had “seriously challenged both the timing and finances of the project.”

Supporters are being urged to ensure it can “continue to operate at the forefront of contemporary culture for decades to come.”

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The new look arts complex may not be ready until May 2021 – nine months later than expected – after its costs rose to £3.9million – £200,000 more than a price tag set two years ago.

The Fruitmarket, which will be twice its previous size when it reopens, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help bridge the funding gap for its expansion into the site of a former live music venue and nightclub next door.

It is also in talks with Creative Scotland about the increased costs, which have been blamed on four-month shutdown of building sites across the country during the tightest lockdown restrictions.

The Fruitmarket, which has been pursuing plans for a redevelopment for more than a decade, warned in 2014 – during its 40th anniversary celebrations - that its long-term future was “under threat” due to a shortage of space and outdated facilities for artists.

The Fruitmarket had been planning an £11m redevelopment after securing the neighbouring site but was forced to scale back its scale due to planning restrictions and the refusal of the Heritage Lottery Fund to support the project.

The Fruitmarket Gallery will double in size once its ongoing revamp is completed. Picture: Reiach & Hall

Edinburgh-based architects Reiach and Hall were hired to produce new plans in November 2018 and an August 2020 reopening, with a major show by Turner Prize nominee Karla Black, was announced last December.

The new-look Fruitmarket will stage three major exhibitions a year it its long-running gallery spaces, while a new warehouse space will create a new “multi-arts venue” as well as a space for large-scale visual art to be made and shown.

Fruitmarket director Fiona Bradley said: “We were about three months from having the building handed over to us when everyone on site had to down tools in March.

“When they restarted in July the builders then had to re-work the rest of the programme to ensure social distancing, so that’s had to be drawn out.

Live music, dance, theatre and spoken word events are all expected to be staged in the new warehouse space at the Fruitmarket. Picture: Reiach & Hall

"All going well, we should be open to the public in the spring, although I am loathe to put an exact date on it.

"The new building is going to give us a great deal of agility, with new and different spaces, and encourage new ways of working. I’m trying to focus on that.

"There are undeniable additional costs with an elongated project. The longer things take the more they cost. More crucially for us, the longer our reopening is delayed the less money we make. We normally generate more than £20,000 a month from our shop, cafe and hires. We want to be open as soon as possible as we have fantastic work being made that we can’t wait to share, but reopening also give us an opportunity to make money again.”

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Architects Reiach and Hall were appointed to design the new-look Fruitmarket in November 2018. Picture: Reiach and Hall

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