Opening revealed for waterfront gallery honouring artist who drew inspiration from the Clyde
He swapped working life as a customs and excise officer in one of Scotland's busiest ports to become a full-time artist in his late fifties.
George Wyllie would become one of Scotland’s best-known sculptors thanks to the work he created from his home overlooking the Firth of Clyde.
Now the artist is set to be honoured in a major new waterfront landmark helping to shape the future of Inverclyde, where the artist spent the last 50 years of his life.
A purpose-built gallery created as part of a £20 million cruise ship visitor centre will be opening in Greenock in March.
The largest collection of his works anywhere in the world will be going on display in The Wyllieum, which is located close to the former Custom House where Wyllie worked for more than 30 years.
The gallery will feature a permanent display of Wyllie's work and material from the vast archive of material kept after he passed away in 2012, shortly after his 90th birthday.
Temporary exhibition spaces will be able to showcase further work by Wyllie – who lived in nearby Gourock – and some of his regular collaborators, including George Rickey and Joseph Beuys, as well as championing contemporary artists and sculptors who have responded to his legacy.
The opening exhibition will recall a project which saw him create metal "spire" sculptures for outdoor spaces around the world.
It is hoped the cultural attraction, which will open on 28 March, will both raise awareness of the work and legacy of Wyllie, who drew inspiration for much of his work from the shipbuilding heritage of the Clyde, and help attract first-time cultural visitors to Greenock, which already home to the Beacon Arts Centre.
The opening of The Wyllieum will be the result of years of work by the family and supporters of the artists. The George Wyllie Trust worked with Inverclyde Council to ensure that a permanent gallery would be created in the new Ocean Terminal complex in Greenock.
The Dunard Fund, which is backed by philanthropists Murray and Carol Grigor, donated £1.7m to the building, which features an arrivals and departures hall operated by Peel Ports, who handle visits of cruise ships to Greenock, as well as a restaurant and roof terrace overlooking the Firth of Clyde.
Born in Shettleston, in Glasgow, in 1921, Wyllie initially trained as an engineer with the Post Office before serving in the Royal Navy and going on to work in Custom House until 1979.
Wyllie’s best-known works include Straw Locomotive, which was hung from the Finnieston Crane, Paper Boat, which set sail around the world, and The Running Clock, which can be seen outside Glasgow's main bus station.
Will Cooper, director of The Wyllieum, said: “I’m in awe of the dedicated hard work of impassioned supporters who have turned their love for George into The Wyllieum, the first purpose-built gallery in the west of Scotland for over a decade."
Wyllie’s daughter Louise said: “It has been a joy to witness energetic people such as Will Cooper lead on the future of bringing my father’s work to audiences old and new.
"In his job as a customs and excise officer, he spent a lot of time at the docks in Greenock, where The Wyllieum now sits. The family is invested in seeing this cultural space thrive.”
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