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Remarks: Hanging Matters

Patrick Elliot, senior curator at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, talks about a new re-hang to celebrate the gallery’s 50th anniversary.

Nathan Coley, 'THERE WILL BE NO MIRACLES HERE', 2006, scaffolding & illuminated text. This work will be installed in the grounds of SNGMA from November 2009.

Nathan Coley, 'THERE WILL BE NO MIRACLES HERE', 2006, scaffolding & illuminated text. This work will be installed in the grounds of SNGMA from November 2009.

“The Gallery of Modern Art holds over 5000 works: it’s your collection, you own it, so why haven’t you seen it all? (You can see a lot of it by going to www.nationalgalleries.org/collections, but it’s not the same as seeing the real thing). The answer has partly to do with exhibitions. In the past ten years, as exhibitions have become the life-blood of museums and galleries, we have devoted roughly half of the gallery to them: Tracey Emin, Richard Long and Robert  Mapplethorpe count among our recent, big, successful shows. The flipside is that the collection is confined to a smaller number of rooms. And since there’s an expectation that certain works will always be out (Scottish Colourists, big names like Picasso and Matisse, iconic works such as Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘In the Car’, and contemporary work from Scotland) there’s limited scope for change.

But radical change is what we are about to offer. From November, for the first time since the gallery moved to its current home at Belford Road, Edinburgh in 1984, we shall re-hang the whole building in one go, suspend major exhibitions for a year, and give prominence to the collection.

The timing presages our 50thanniversary year: the  gallery first opened at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden in 1960. Some displays will be thematic; mixing famous and little known works, we hope to provide surprising juxtapositions. These thematic room will be interspersed with small solo exhibitions: a room of new works devoted to the American artist David Schutter; an extraordinary installation by Martin Boyce and a new work by young German artist Kitty Kraus. Upstairs, Callum Innes has been given total freedom to curate a two-room display with works from the collection and selected loans.

As well as showing rotating, challenging new displays from the collection, the programme will also feature changing single-room exhibitions by leading Scottish and international artists.”

SNGMA: What you see is where you’re at, from 28 November