Issue 196
Winter 2016

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Jun 27, 2017
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    Editorial Comment

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    One hundred and seventy five!

    INSIDE THIS issue we celebrate a truly remarkable achievement. Edinburgh's leading private sector gallery has notched up 175 years of unbroken service to the artistic community of Scotland.

    Like not a few independent galleries, the Scottish Gallery started out hunbly enough as 'Gilders, Framers and Artists' Colourmen.'

    Over the years astute management and canny moves across the city have led them to the dominant position they occupy physically on Edinburgh's street of galleries (Dundas Street) and artistically amongst Scotland's – and the UK's – producing artists.

    As the leading lights in the organisation make plain in an article in this issue, this has been no easy ride. The art market is, as they rightly point out, full of risk.

    What is perhaps most impressive to the outsider is their open-ness to new ideas and to new faces, while all the while keeping a canny eye on the bottom line. With virtually no exceptions, the business has been made to show a profit year in year out.

    Contrast this with the often barmy allocations of public funds to some truly hare-brained artistic ventures and the achievement is all the greater.

    As is pointed in these pages, the Scottish Gallery has been on the go appreciably longer than Scotland's publicly funded national galleries and many may think with a more impressive track record,

    For many a year it has been difficult to detect any coherent guiding principle behind our national galleries' policies.

    The recent apparent 'discovery' of Catterline's (and Glasgow's) Joan Eardley, however late in the day, is a welcome sign. Visitor figures approaching 50,000 are testimony to the huge latent interest in the subject.

    There are other encouraging signs in the gallery scene. One rural gallery which closed its doors after its owners retired was soon snapped up and is back in business.

    Welcome back to the Aberfeldy Gallery – another reason to visit this flourishing Perthshire arts village!

    Design City, Dundee

    LAST SUMMER (in ArtWork 194), we reported on Dundee's Design Festival, which is being held again later this month. However, re-using Thomson's West Ward Works in Guthrie Street now has special significance because it has been earmarked for an £18m conversion that will turn the works into a creative and cultural hub.

    The aim is to stage live performances, festivals and exhibitions, as well as providing a permanent base for artists, designers and other creative workers and industries.

    The 200,000 sq ft building dates back to 1806, when it was the city's first fireproof mill before, some 60 years ago, becoming a printing works for D.C. Thomson, turning out more than 50m books a year.

    The works closed down in 2010 and has remained largely unused ever since. However, following the success of last year's Design Festival, which attracted 7000 visitors across six days, D.C. Thomson is spearheading a charitable trust to create the hub.

    It will be directed by David Cook, who spent 23 years building up the city's WASPs artists' studios into one of Britain's biggest social enterprises.

    WASPs now provides creative spaces for around 1000 people. The conversion is expected to take some seven years and is part of the Tay Cities Deal programme, aimed at creating 15,000 jobs over the next decade.

    The first occupants of the hub are expected to move in next year, just ahead of the opening of the V&A's Design Museum in the summer. Thus the hub is seen as a focal point for efforts to build upon Dundee's UNESCO City of Design status, which was awarded in 2014.

    Been led up the Amazon?

    If the venture proves successful it should greatly enhance the city's reputation for, among other things, the bio-medical sciences and video games.

    ON THE facing page to this column we print what might be considered a sustained attack on a business many will confess to finding extremely useful.

    But booskellers (and increasingly other traders) throughout the land will tell you that Amazon is no friend of theirs.

    Recent years have seen an increasing toll being taken of independent booksellers, leaving many towns with no bookshop of any sort.

    This could be put down to changing ways, but there is also the question of the very unevenness of the playing field.

    How come a business with huge physical presence in this country can end up pretending the activity takes place in a tax sheltered neighbour – Ireland?

    Our print media face not dissimilar problems with those other American behemoths – Facebook and Google.

    Even publications which have set great store by their online presence are finding their revenues drying up as an ever greater share of the advertising market is gobbled up by these giants.

    At the very least they should be made to face their full responsibilites as publishers – oh, and pay their fair share of taxes too.

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