Out & About in Edinburgh with the Art Festival

Art - Lessons of the Hour

The 17th edition of the Edinburgh Art Festival will bring together over 35 exhibitions and new commissions in visual art spaces across the city, complemented by an online programme of events and digital presentations. Founded in 2004, Edinburgh Art Festival is the platform for the visual arts at the heart of Edinburgh’s August festivals, bringing together the capital’s leading galleries, museums, production facilities and artist-run spaces in a city-wide celebration of the very best in visual art.

Commenting on the programme, Festival Director Sorcha Carey said, "Some exhibitions are newly made in response to the seismic shifts of the past year; others are the result of many years of planning and careful research - but all are the unique, authentic, and thoughtful products of our city's extraordinarily rich visual art scene”. You can browse the full programme online and from that programme we've picked here a dozen highlights of shows out and about in Edinburgh.

Lessons of the Hour: Isaac Julien [at Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art]

The UK and European premiere of Isaac Julien’s Lessons of the Hour is presented in partnership with National Galleries of Scotland. This major new ten-screen film installation, a European premiere, by celebrated British artist Isaac Julien, CBE, RA, offers a poetic meditation on the life and times of Frederick Douglass, the visionary African American writer, abolitionist and a freed slave, who spent two years in Edinburgh in the 1840s campaigning across Scotland, England and Ireland for freedom and social justice. Free, advance booking required HERE.


Tak Tent O' Time Ere Time Be Tint: Sean Lynch [at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop]

Irish artist Sean Lynch’s new project casts a spotlight on Edinburgh’s public monuments and sculptures, today subject to ongoing civic processes to have society acknowledge and understand the legacies of history. His installation at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop explores the use of folk traditions, the making of sculpture and the parables held inside monuments themselves, which can empower social change and produce a public realm implicitly open to everyone. Free, drop-in (limited capacity)

Art - Sean Lynch

Song of the Union: Emeka Ogboh [at Edinburgh’s Burns Monument]

Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh presents a new sound installation sited in Edinburgh’s Burns Monument. The 7-channel work, a response to the ongoing theatre surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU, features the recorded voices of citizens from each nation state of the EU, who currently reside in Scotland, singing Auld Lang Syne in their mother tongue. At a time when the post-Brexit reality in the U.K. is still far from resolved, the contradictions, hopes and harmonies that underscore the political concerns of the process are played out by Ogboh in the work. Free, advance booking advised HERE. Drop-ins welcome (limited capacity).


Sculptures 2001–2021: Karla Black [at Fruitmarket Gallery]

The first chance for festival audiences to experience the newly redeveloped Fruitmarket Gallery. Scottish artist Karla Black was invited to be the first to show in both the exhibition galleries and the brand-new warehouse space of the redeveloped Fruitmarket. The new exhibition is an attempt to redefine the traditional retrospective or survey show and it combines existing and new work, and is the result of an invitation to Black to play to her strengths and “force a raw creative moment” into the Fruitmarket’s pristine new gallery spaces. Free, advance booking advised HERE. Drop-ins welcome (limited capacity)


In guise of Land: Matthew Arthur Williams [at Johnson Terrace Wildlife Garden]

Matthew Arthur Williams presents an exhibition of photographic prints set against the lush greenery of Johnston Terrace Gardens. Captured in various locations on the West coast of Scotland including during a Bothy Projects residency on the Isle of Eigg. Williams references a long history of portraits in the landscape. Part of the Festival's new strand 'What happens to desire...' curated by Glasgow based artist, film-maker and programmer, Tako Taal. Free, advance booking advised HERE. Drop-ins welcome (limited capacity)

Art - Matthew Arthur Williams

In Relation to Linum: Christine Borland [at Inverleith House]

A new solo exhibition from 1997 Turner Prize nominee Christine Borland. This multidisciplinary project, featuring watercolours, prints and sculptural pieces, explores the lifecycle of flax (Linum usitatissimum), evolving RBGE’s 350-year relationship with the plant. From flax sown at RBGE to motion-captured planting processes, In Relation to Linum is an intimate reconnection with the ecological heritage and future of growing and making practices, and their associations with care. Free, book in advance HERE.

Art - Christine Borland

RESET: Alberta Whittle [at Jupiter Artland]

A new solo show by Turner-prize co-winning artist Alberta Whittle. Whittle produced RESET at the height of lockdown, filming across Scotland, South African and Barbados and responding to the immediate context of the Black Lives Matter movement, the global pandemic and the climate emergency. The film connects emergent fears of contagion, moral panic and xenophobia with a call to action – a demand – to face and heal injustices and cultivate hope in hostile environments. Tickets £5-£10, advance booking required HERE.

Art - RESET Alberta Whittle

The Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure [at National Museum of Scotland]

Bringing together the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland, the internationally significant Galloway Hoard is transforming our understanding of Scotland’s connections with the wider world during this period. Buried around AD 900, the Hoard contains over 100 objects, not only silver and gold but also rarely surviving textiles. Free, book in advance HERE.

Art - Galloway

Lost Boat Part: Jock McFadyen [at Dovecot Studios]

This summer Dovecot celebrates the artist Jock McFadyen’s 70th birthday year with Lost Boat Party an exhibition of paintings which describe the romance and grandeur of the Scottish landscape, alongside the urban dystopia for which the artist is known - with many of the paintings are void of human presence, instead inviting the viewer to inhabit the haunting and occasionally hostile panoramas of land and sea before them. Free, advance booking advised HERE. Drop-ins welcome (limited capacity)

Art - Jock McFadyen

Centenary: Joan Eardley [in The Scottish Gallery]

The Scottish Gallery presents an extensive new exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Joan Eardley (1921-1963), one of Scotland’s greatest artists. Joan Eardley | Centenary will include her most celebrated subjects: the lost Glasgow, the streets and children of Townhead and her wild, spiritual home at Catterline on the Kincardineshire coast are both represented by major works and charming drawings and pastels. Free, drop-in.

Art - Joan Eardley

Tapestry Goes Pop!: Archie Brennan [at Dovecot Studios]

The story of Edinburgh native Archie Brennan (1931-2019) in the first major retrospective of his work. Pop artist, weaver, and former Mr Scotland, Archie Brennan changed the course of modern weaving and is considered one of the greatest unrecognised pop artists of the twentieth century. The exhibition brings together over 80 tapestries as well as archive material, presenting a unique chance to delve into the world of a master of modern tapestry. Tickets £8.50-£9.50, book in advance HERE.

Art - Tapestry

Platform: 2021 [Institut français d’Ecosse]

Platform is the festival's dedicated showcase for artists in the early stages of their careers, each year introducing audiences to a new generation of contemporary artists based in Scotland. The 2021 edition has been selected from an open call by writer and producer Mason Leaver-Yap and artist Ciara Phillips working with festival director Sorcha Carey. Jessica Higgins, Danny Pagarani, Kirsty Russell and Isabella Widger will present new work as part of a group exhibition held at the Institut français d’Ecosse. Encompassing a broad range of media and approaches, the selected projects share a collective interest in the ways in which infrastructures of knowledge are constructed and disseminated. Free, advance booking advised HERE. Drop-ins welcome (limited capacity).

Art - Platform

These dozen shows have been selected from the extensive Edinburgh Art Festival programme taking place in visual art spaces across Edinburgh and the Festival is also planning a series of digital and hybrid events, to include artist and curator conversations, bespoke tours through the programme, events and activities for families and community groups, as well as newly commissioned work for digital space. Check out their website for all the latest information. 

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