Art Festival Fringe contd

Scotland’s oldest private art gallery says it may seek a festival listing next year – in the Fringe programme.

The Scottish Gallery is one of three major  galleries on Dundas Street, centre of Edinburgh’s art trade, that are out of the Edinburgh Art Festival this year.   The Fine Art Society is another grand dame of the Scottish trade, while the third is the relative newcomer, Arusha.

The Arusha Gallery tried to get taken on as a festival partner but was turned down.   But the Scottish Gallery and FAS have stayed out,  because they don’t see the promotion the art festival provides as worth the costs.    They stress they have no quarrel with its approach but don’t see it fitting their own needs.

The galleries are staging festival exhibitions but aren’t in the art festival.  Scottish Gallery director Guy Peploe – he stepped down as managing director recently after decades in that post – suggested a Fringe listing as the alternative, or even reviving the old Galleries Association for some cross-promotion.

“We feel tht we have sufficient weight within our own marketing initiative to ‘go it alone’ and could not finally see participation in the EAF as sufficiently worthwhile given the costs,” Peploe said.  It is designed chiefly to provide a marketing platform for temporary spaces, events and individual artist initiatives which give character and originality to the visual arts in August.`’

He raised the prospect of reviving the old Galleries Association for some cross-promotion.  “Art has never been part of the official Festival; the Fringe is unburied, so EAF seeks to provide encouragement for contemporary art while making qualitative judgements about participation and seeking a degree of self-funding through a membership and participation charge. Not easy and a reasonable job done!”

The Fine Art Society – the Edinburgh branch of the oldest private gallery in London – was a festival partner until 2012.   From 2013, however, the gallery concluded, again without grousing,  that the festival’s focus on contemporary art meant it wasn’t worth the investment.

Dundas Street is the traditional heartland of the Edinburgh gallery scene – joined recently, for example, by the relocated Carson Clark Gallery, the city’s foremost supplier of antique maps, on the Royal Mile for decades.

The Scottish Gallery, with strong ties to the Scottish Colourists among others, has not been part of the festival for years.    By contrast this year the Open Eye, with its lengthy look at Barbara Rae, remains an established festival partner.     (Rae’s early works were a stand-out in this exhibition.)

The Arusha Gallery, which regularly plies its trade at the London art fairs, asked to join as a partner institution and were turn down.   Staff at the gallery felt that the festival committee was  “pretty picky” and “don’t like newbies too much”.

This year, the FAS Edinburgh Festival exhibition, Re-Awakenings,  celebrates the Scottish paintings   art and design in the years that followed the end of the Second World War.     Offerings include an unusual wood construction piece by Alberto Morocco, an artist whose work and life, including internment in World War II,  and accomplished teaching career at Duncan of Jordanstone, have long made him a personal favourite.


Alberto Morocco Scottish artist Fine Art Society

The FAS director in Edinburgh, Emily Walsh, had this to say about the gallery’s decision to stay out of the festival.

“The gallery bowed out of the EAF in 2013 because it was so strongly weighted towards contemporary art,  and I didn’t think our interests as secondary market/historical picture dealers were well represented.

“The fee is enough to consider – to do it means not doing something else. As a permanent Edinburgh gallery with overheads all year round, a financial investment needs to pay its way either through sales or media representation. Neither came our way (beyond what we might have got anyway eg. a Duncan McMillan review).

“It makes sense for EAF to have a focus and not be a catch all. In their case it is contemporary art with a great many of the galleries represented visiting the city for the month.

“I exclude the National Galleries of Scotland, the Queen’s Gallery and other institutions who belong in a bracket of their own.”

The EAF wraps all these major institutions under its umbrella.

An art festival spokeswoman confirmed Arusha applied to be a partner this year,  but were not successful.   “However, EAF certainly do have other newby galleries, such as The Number Shop, which is a recent addition – a small, artist-run studio in Edinburgh.

EAF (and all the other Edinburgh festivals) aren’t like the Fringe, she said  – they have a set of publicly advertised criteria, agreed by the programme committee and then the board, including accessing the quality and focus of the gallery.

“EAF is a public facing festival, rather than a commercial entity; aiming to reach national and international audiences as well as Scottish visitors.”
A second major piece at the FAS is the Still Life with Bones Robert Macbryde 1959

Robert Macbryde Scottish artist Fine Art Society festival

Still Life with Bones Robert Macbryde 1959
signed, inscribed with title on stretcher verso


The Fine Art Society in Edinburgh began life as Bourne Fine Art in 1978.   The London gallery has been in Bond Street since 1876.

The Arusha Gallery by contrast has been running just two years on Dundas Street, in an impressively large space.    It has tried to break out of the mould of traditional Scottish or Edinburgh art.

“We have a great photography show on during August which has not been included as part of the official festival programme,” said the gallery manager Lauren McLaughlin.

“The Art festival have changed their criteria this year for exhibitions and galleries to be a part of the festival. We applied to become a partner institution however they have denied this.”

The art festival will bring all kinds of entertainment to Edinburgh this year, notably with new works at Jupiter Artland and the Dazzle ship in Leith, as well as platforms for emerging artists.

But it seems curious – particularly for an international audience – that the leading hub for private galleries in Edinburgh is mostly excluded from any festival recognition.