Sudden closure of Inverleith House gallery sparks outcry

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 26.10.2016
Alternative use will be sought for botanic gardens building
Around 700 visitors staged a mass protest over the weekend against the closure of the contemporary art gallery at Inverleith House in Edinburgh, which shut its doors for good on Sunday after running into financial difficulties.
 
The popular gallery was run by Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (RBGE), which has been criticised for announcing the closure with just five days’ notice.

In a statement, RBGE said that it had taken the decision to close the gallery to “remove the various inevitable financial risks attached to running a high-profile gallery”.

RBGE said the gallery, which celebrated its 30th birthday this year, was shut in order to prioritise its core mission and free-up resources for its scientific and horticultural research and conservation work.

The statement said: “RBGE will continue to use both the overall setting of the garden and other existing indoor spaces to engage our visitors with art in the garden environment. No member of staff will lose their job in the adjustment.”

It said an alternative use would be found for Inverleith House.

The gallery received a grant of £80,000 from Creative Scotland last December for a study on how to ensure its sustainability until 2021, but missed out on an application for regular funding from the arts body two years ago.
 
RBGE has not yet confirmed what will happen to the remainder of the grant following the gallery’s closure.
 
Scottish artists and cultural figures have come out against the closure, which was described as an “extreme act of vandalism” by the Turner Prize-winning artist Richard Wright.
 
“There is no other public visual arts venue in Scotland that has anywhere near its status or reputation,” he told Herald Scotland. “It is a jewel and its loss will be deeply felt in places far from here.”

An online petition against the closure has attracted almost 8,000 signatures to date.
 
The petition states: “It seems outrageous that the RBGE management should seek to close [the gallery] at just a few days' notice, and without public consultation, apparently with a view to exploiting it for more commercially rewarding purposes.
 
“Yet the amount of public money invested in maintaining the house as a gallery over the years raises questions about whether the RBGE management have any moral right to close it to the public in this way, or have any idea of the sense of loss that will be felt by tens of thousands of people, in Edinburgh and far beyond.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, who represents Inverleith ward on the City of Edinburgh Council, is backing the fight to save the gallery. Hinds told Museums Journal that the council's culture and sport committee is seeking a meeting with RBGE to discuss the issue.    

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