Scottish Government commits £9m to new Edinburgh waterfront home for 120,000-strong art collection
The Scottish Government has pledged £9 million for a vast development on Edinburgh's waterfront that will create a “world-class” new home for more than 120,000 art treasures, as well as a new cultural attraction for the city.
It is hoped work will get underway this year on The Art Works project, which is envisaged as a cornerstone of a cultural hub already taking shape in the Granton area.
The National Galleries of Scotland venture, which has been in planning and development for nearly a decade, will transform a site around the size of two playing fields into a combined archive, conservation centre, research facility and visitor attraction.
New walking and cycling routes linking north and south Granton will be created through outdoor spaces around the complex, which is earmarked for a key site at the heart of a planned £1.3 billion regeneration of the area.
The government funding is expected to unlock other financial support for The Art Works, which is hoped to "kick-start" new cultural projects and initiatives in the area, as well as “future proof” the care of Scotland’s national art collection, which features work by Titian, Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh.
The UK government has already pledged £16.4 million in "Levelling Up" funding for the Granton vision, including an ongoing project to turn a former gas holder tower, which dates back to 1901, and surrounding land into a visitor attraction, event space and public park.
A former railway station building has already been converted into a new home for artists and creative businesses under a £4.75m project, while a former industrial warehouse on a separate site is to be turned into a new creative and community hub featuring studio space and shop units.
The National Galleries project is expected to open up access to Scotland's national art collection, which is stored across various buildings around the country. The Art Works will bring together a vast collection of drawings, watercolours, oil paintings, textiles and sculpture under the one roof for the first time.
Visitors will be able to see ongoing conservation work being carried out. Spaces will be created for viewing the collections, running workshops, and staging events for school and community groups.
The project is also key to realising the National Galleries’ ambitions of sharing the national art collection more widely by creating new partnerships, tours and exhibitions across Scotland.
The design of The Art Works project has been led by the Scottish architectural practice John McAslan & Partners, which worked on the recent transformation of the Burrell Collection attraction in Glasgow.
Although the Granton project had a £75m price tag when the architects were appointed in 2017, the National Galleries has not confirmed the updated estimated cost.
The Scottish Government was one of the key funders of the National Galleries project to create new exhibition spaces for its Scottish collections at the National Gallery in Edinburgh city centre, which opened to the public in September. The Art Works project is at the heart of ongoing efforts by the National Galleries to secure a long-term funding commitment.
Its funding for the Granton project is revealed in a recent report for the Scottish Parliament's culture committee.
It states: “While the completion of the project at the National Gallery is a major milestone, we must continue to invest in our estate as we strive to reduce our impact on the environment and to provide the best conditions for safeguarding and sharing our collections.
"The Art Works will house 95 per cent of the national collection of fine art and is an investment that challenges traditional notions of collection storage through a design which supports a dynamic response to both established and new ways of interacting with art.
“Our ambition is to more widely share the national collection with the people of Scotland and beyond, building on existing partnerships and creating new collaborations with museums, galleries, and communities around the country, so that everyone can explore and discover art.
"We do not see the collection as something static available only at our physical sites in Edinburgh. We have the potential to share more widely with audiences all over the country and internationally, whether that is facilitating an in-person experience or an online engagement.”
A spokeswoman for the National Galleries said: “To date, the Scottish Government has provided £9m of funding towards the development of The Art Works project.
"We remain in ongoing discussions with the Scottish Government to confirm the timeline for funding to be released for construction following the planning permission being approved at the end of last year and will provide further updates in due course."
Anne Lyden, director general of the National Galleries, said: ‘The Art Works is an incredibly important project for Scotland.
“As well as providing vital safe storage for our country's world class art, it will make a significant contribution to the regeneration of Granton.
“Our vision is for a new building that welcomes a wide range of people in to enjoy the art - there will be new outdoor spaces, and events and activities for everyone to get involved with. All of which contributes to wellbeing and quality of life.
“It is too early for us to share a total projected cost yet. However, we are working hard on various strands such as the overall funding and the different funding streams involved, including the ongoing support from Scottish Government, which fully appreciates the importance of the project, and the need to care for, research, preserve and share Scotland’s national collection of art treasures.”
Culture Minister Christina McKelvie said: “We are pleased that The Art Works in Granton has received planning permission as it is an exciting project which will be of great benefit to the local area as well as the wider culture sector.
“To date the Scottish Government has provided £9 million to the development and we will continue liaising with our partners at the National Galleries regarding the project.”
Peter Lee, associate at McAslan & Partners, said: “The Art Works will bring all the art that’s not on show in galleries into one place, where it can be looked after, conserved, studied and enjoyed by more people.
“We hope it will become a destination that will kick-start other cultural initiatives in the area, and contribute to economic sustainability by providing jobs and opportunities for other businesses, and support community pride and wellbeing.”
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