Public and celebrities unite in Inverleith House protest
Key figures in the art world, authors and actors have spoken out against the closure of Edinburgh’s historic Inverleith House, an exhibition space for contemporary art. Recently closed, the gallery is now receiving support not only from famous names, but through public protests as well.
The gallery’s closure was announced by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), which runs the venue, as a cost-efficiency measure, but the decision has been widely criticised.
Explaining the move, RBGE said in a statement that the closure is in the interests of its wider mission to “explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future”. It stated that the funds saved would free up resources to be used in other areas, such as scientific and horticultural research, as well as conservation efforts and encouraging the public to engage with the environment.
Alternative uses will be sought for Inverleith House itself, but the RBGE said it intends to continue using the gardens to help visitors engage with art.
Designed in 1773 and moving into the hands of the RBGE in 1820, the house has been showcasing contemporary art since 1986, and in that time has become much loved by the art community and the public.
In protest of the closure, an open letter has been sent to two Scottish government ministers. Signed by several hundred cultural figures, including Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Irvine Welsh and Ewan McGregor, the letter stressed the gallery’s cultural value, and urged RBGE to host an open debate about its closure when it meets next month.
Talking about the venue’s value, the letter highlighted its “international cultural significance”, explaining that not only is it a highly regarded gallery locally, but offers a world-class programme of exhibitions.
“Paul Nesbitt (exhibitions director) and his team have shone a light on otherwise unseen archival botanical materials, nurtured Scottish artists at key moments in their careers and brought the work of ground breaking international artists to the UK,” it stated, shining a light on the fact that what the gallery has to offer is unique.
It also talked of the “widespread public dismay” at the decision, and indeed these sentiments have been visibly echoed by the public. More than 9,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the gallery to stay open, while approximately 700 protesters gathered in demonstration during the final day of a 30th-anniversary exhibition.
“Inverleith House is not just a contemporary art gallery; it is a national treasure and an international beacon of our culture,” the letter concluded.