This week sees the opening of a new exhibition at Edinburgh’s Inverleith House, the first since the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – which manages the space – announced the closure of the gallery in October last year.

Launching as part of Edinburgh Art Festival, ‘Plant Scenery of the World’ will present new, commissioned and existing work by Laura Aldridge, Charlie Billingham, Bobby Niven, Oliver Osborne and Ben Rivers.

In addition, there will be rare and unseen archival material, botanical paintings by Işık Güner, Jacqui Pestell and Sharon Tingey, and historical paintings by RK Greville from the Royal Botanic Garden’s own collection.

The exhibition celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Royal Botanic Garden’s iconic modernist glasshouses which opened in 1967 to house plants collected in tropical, temperate, rainforest and arid lands by Scottish explorers. The works in the show will critically examine the glasshouses’ past, current and future use.

The announcement that Inverleith House will be taking part in the festival comes after it originally closed its doors as a gallery at the end of the group show ‘I Still Believe in Miracles’, which itself celebrated 30 years of exhibitions at Inverleith House from 1986 to 2016.

A storm of protests from artists and those working in the visual arts followed the announcement, including a mass visit in February 2017 organised by the I Still Believe in Inverleith House group. A petition calling for the decision to be reversed attracted nearly 11,000 signatures, while an open letter was signed by over 230 artists, gallery directors and celebrities. Signatories included Tracey Emin, Sir Nicholas Serota and Cindy Sherman.

A statement on behalf of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh explained that the decision to continue displaying art is a direct result of its Arts Working Group report. The group were tasked with establishing a clear strategic direction to allow for the development of an arts programme that would ‘align with and amplify the core mission of RBGE and that would be achievable and sustainable within the current financial climate’.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh commented: “The recommendations will undoubtedly help RBGE to build on its recognised artistic legacy and develop a more sustainable and integrated arts, creative and cultural programme across its four gardens, including Inverleith House.”

The organisation will now look to establish an Arts Advisory Committee to plan its future art programming. “We will be seeking partnerships and financial investment and developing an arts programme that integrates existing and new artistic events and exhibitions with our core work. The focus will be on quality, sustainability and engagement, capitalising on our position as a world leading botanic garden.”

Plant Scenery of the World is at Inverleith House, 28 July – 29 October 2017.

More Edinburgh Art Festival news

Each year Edinburgh Art Festival presents new publicly sited works across the city, opening up new spaces and offering opportunities to experience hidden corners of Edinburgh.

Highlights of this year’s programme, which is titled The Making of the Future: Now, include:

Bobby Niven’s temporary studio workshop within the Johnston Terrace Wildlife Garden is inspired by the ideas of Scottish town planner Patrick Geddes, and by the artist’s research into the history of the Palm Houses of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden (where he is also exhibiting work). Niven’s studio structure incorporates hand-carved anthropomorphic sculptural elements into a timber framed transparent structure.

Duo Zoë Walker and Neil Bromwich are known internationally for their large-scale sculptural works, participatory events and public performances that invite audiences to imagine better worlds. Sited in Trinity Apse, an architectural reminder of Edinburgh’s medieval history, their work will feature a giant inflatable sculpture of a dragon, with a series of playful attempts to slay the beast through performative ritual, public pageant, and intellectual debate.

Shannon Te Ao’s new multimedia installation at Gladstone Court explores the physical and emotional depths of love, grief, sickness and healing. Centred around video footage shot in different locations throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand, the work explores a poetic assemblage of tenuously related content.

A showcase for practitioners at the beginning of their careers, Platform features four artists selected from across Scotland from an open call.

The selected artists – Uist Corrigan, Rebecca Howard, Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte and Adam Quinn – reflect a wide range of different approaches to art making, from performance, filmmaking, photography and work with archives, to sound installation and sculpture.

This year’s Platform will be held at a new festival venue, The Fire Station at Lauriston Place. Originally a Victorian fire station and run as the Fire Museum in recent years, it has been acquired by the University of Edinburgh for the expansion of Edinburgh College of Art.

Pop-up exhibitions and events
Taking place in pop-up spaces across the city, this programme is a chance to discover new work, including exhibitions, events and activities in unusual places.

Highlights include:

‘Pauline and the Matches’ (12 – 27 August) at Custom Lane. This group of established multi-media performance and sound artists will create an interactive performance space and installation.

Taking place at Patriothall Gallery, ‘The Drawing Works: Fault Lines’ (5 – 27 August) is an exhibition of contemporary abstract drawing by emerging and mid-career British and Irish artists. The show includes work by Fiona Robinson, Julia Hutton, Susan Michie, Eric Cruikshank, Steven Maybury and Nigel Bird.

Juliana Capes’ Earthly Bodies (9 – 27 August) is a street-based artwork, exhibition and tour that charts the significance of the city’s chewing gum constellations. It casts the artist in the role of ‘Pavement Astronomer/Astrologer’, charting and analysing the results created by these constellations.

Edinburgh Art Festival, 27 July – 27 August 2017, various venues, Edinburgh.

1. Botanical artists Işık Güner and Sharon Tingey working on a triptych of the Royal Botanic Garden’s Amorphophallus titanum when it flowered in 2015. Photo: Serge Jakobson
2. Walker & Bromwich, A Plea For Common Ownership, 2017. Photo: Mark Pinder; Courtesy: Edinburgh Art Festival
3. Shannon Te Ao, still from With the sun aglow, I have my pensive moods, two channel video, colour and sound, 2017. Cinematography: Iain Frengley; Courtesy: Edinburgh Art Festival
4. Adam Quinn, Bastion, cast concrete, pin and parcan lights, 2016. Courtesy: the artist and Edinburgh Art Festival
5. Uist Corrigan, Bell, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Edinburgh Art Festival
6. Juliana Capes, Annul, as part of LeithLate16, Edinburgh, 2016. Courtesy: the artist and Edinburgh Art Festival

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