The letter, addressed to Sir Muir Russell, chair of the RBGE board, has been signed by artists including Turner Prize winners Martin Boyce, Douglas Gordon, Anish Kapoor and Richard Wright, as well as Tracey Emin, Luke Fowler, Jim Lambie, and Ed Ruscha.
Other signatories include Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, Kettle’s Yard director Andrew Nairne, the gallerist Victoria Miro, Sheena Wagstaff, head of modern and contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the actors Ewan McGregor and Val Kilmer.
The letter states that Inverleith House is “a national treasure and an international beacon of our culture” and that “its loss is of international cultural significance”.
It adds: “In light of wide spread public dismay, we ask that the decision to bring to an end 30 years of contemporary art programming at Inverleith House be reopened for debate at the next meeting of the Board of Trustees in December 2016 and that the wider community be given an opportunity to participate.”
The letter also urges “the Board of Trustees of RBGE to work in cooperation with Creative Scotland to seek ways of securing the long-term future of Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery, a future that reflects its 30 years of excellence in visual art and botanical programming”.
Creative Scotland and its predecessor the Scottish Arts Council has contributed £1.5m to the gallery, and from 2011-16 annual funding of the gallery’s exhibition programme has averaged £88,000. However, the gallery’s 2015-18 application to become one of Creative Scotland’s regularly funded organisations was unsuccessful.
The gallery closed to the public on 23 October after celebrating its 30 years of programming with the retrospective exhibition, ‘I Still Believe in Miracles’.
In a statement about the closure, RBGE stated that the move would “remove the various inevitable financial risks attached to running a high-profile gallery” while also freeing up resources “to concentrate more fully on [RBGE’s] scientific and horticultural research and conservation work”.
The statement added that the gallery’s two staff would remain in post and that art would continue to be shown elsewhere in the gardens.
The closure has been met with anger and dismay by artists and the wider visual arts community, with the gallery’s last day attracting hundreds of protestors with placards who staged a mass visit across the building’s two floors. A petition calling for the decision to close the gallery to be reversed has nearly 9000 signatures so far.
Responding to the open letter, a statement from RBGE said: “The intention is very much that we intend to retain our reputation as an art venue across the board, be it for botanical art, performance, photography, sculpture, and contemporary art. We welcome the opportunity to discuss with Creative Scotland the options to achieve this.”
Read the open letter in full here
Sign the petition calling for Inverleith House gallery to reopen here
1. Protestors outside Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, on 23 October 2016. Photo: Chris Sharratt
2. ‘I Still Believe in Miracles’, 2016, installation view of exhibition which ended on 23 October 2016, Inverleith House, Edinburgh