Day oot at the Dean Gallery


Originally uploaded by framboise.

Having missed out on a beautifully sunny Saturday, we decided to make the most of Sunday visiting our neighbourhood art gallery. I’m pretty lucky to live so close to so many of Scotland’s National Galleries; with my two faves being the closest. The Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh differs from the GoMA in Glasgow as it tends to exhibit slightly more established artists, but we love having lunch there. If we get there early enough, that is. (It has a tendency to sell out by 2pm.) Although the haar hung about all day, the sun broke through enough to persuade us to stay outdoors and give the current Andy Warhol exhibition a miss. Edinburgh’s GoMA has invested in a massive landscape feature “Landform” by Charles Jencks, and while it may have taken ages to complete and probably cost a lot of money, I’ll bet more use has been made of it than the Diana memorial in Hyde Park (which is a shame as it looks great). The man-made spiralling banks of earth draw you in, and have a similar effect to Tibetan meditation mazes. Just walking on the worn turf had a calming effect. And the banks are at just the right angle to lounge in the sun.

After a brief spell watching toddlers scramble all over the Teletubbyland-like landscape, we crossed the road to the Dean Gallery, home of some of my favourite Dada and Surrealist artworks in the form of Gabrielle Keiller’s and Roland Penrose’s personal collections. In the grounds, you can find yet more sculptures/installations by Eduardo Paolozzi, Julian Opie (he of the Blur album cover pop-fame), Barbara Hepworth and others. I wish I had a better knack for taking interesting shots of sculptures. We were particularly fascinated by a moving sculpture with two arms that responded to the constant breezes of Edinburgh, but just could not capture the beauty and elegance of that slow swing. You just have to see it for yourself.

Inside the museum, my favourite room is the library off the permanent Surrealist collection, with its ever-changing mini exhibition of sketches and letters to and from artists. The Keiller library currently houses a collection of documents from Walter Strachan, who was a good friend of many sculptors, including Henry Moore (two of his reclining females are housed across the road). I love the little drawers that slide out, revealing little surprises, like sketches. When the room held an exhibition of bookbinding, the drawers contained samples of hides and vellum, along with tools of the artist bookbinder.

The Dean is currently hosting some work from the Pier Arts Centre of Orkney as it undergoes refurbishment. It comprises work from the St Ives movement, with many examples of Barbara Hepworth‘s sculptures, which are truly organic, and would be very tactile if you were allowed to touch them (which you’re not; shame…). A recent acquisition by the gallery is an installation of cardboard models of the 286 places of worship in/near Edinburgh. We had a really fun time playing “Spot the church”, but could not find the mosque with it’s distinctive prayer tower/minaret. Perhaps it’s there, but our eyes were drawn to church spires instead. It would be a shame to miss out what is the most well attended place of worship in the whole city! (Incidentally, the curry from the mosque’s kitchen is fantastic and cheap. It was one of my favourite lunch spots when I worked on that side of town.)

The Dean is a real Edinburgh gem, and I love how they have made my favourite school of art available. My only grouse about the place is that it’s still more uptight than some museums/galleries on the continent, and you can’t even stand in the room for more than half a minute before a guard comes in to check you’re not vandalising a piece. I’m not sure that would deter those bold enough to steal “The Scream”, and it sometimes puts me off discussing what I like/dislike about a piece with my companion. That said, I love the peace and quiet of the Keiller library. It’s a bit of a bolt hole for me, when the weekend bustle gets too much.

Master of the Universe Skinny tree Thicket Ra
Master of the Universe Shadows Blossom thicket Ra

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