the recently refurbished Scottish
Portrait Gallery a month
back and left somewhat disappointed. It is housed in an imposing sandstone
building that sits on the corner of Queen
street and down from George Street.The gallery
owns 3,000 paintings and sculptures, 25,000 prints and drawings and 38,000
historic and modern photographs.
help but wonder that it’s location amidst the Hanoverian Edinburgh
new town has affected the choice over whose portrait is considered
important enough to be displayed in the new collection – rather than be stashed
in it’s rather full basement. I wasn’t sure what I had expected after reading
the hype but certainly a gallery proud of Scottish heritage and reflecting
both Scottish traditions and Scottish contemporary artists with the main focus
on portraiture. However many of the inclusions appear obscure.
I went with
my two older children and they were not impressed either. They thought the
boring dark images of past kings and queen, who all look the same strangely,
held no interest for them. My son was puzzled by the inclusion of a whole
section of shiny and not very good photos of Asian families which he said seemed rather
photographic images that stood out were - Mark
Neville - Port Glasgow Town Hall Christmas Party 2004; Oscar Marzoroli - The
Castlemilk Lads 1963, an iconic image by an Italian photographer; A Photo of Bob
Dylan in Princes Street; the portrait of Robert Burns and of Mary Queen of
Scots on the third floor.
celebrates many respected photographers, which is fine, but there lacks an
emphasis on portraiture. Many of the most significant Scottish writers, poets,
artists, and musicians appeared to be missing and the displays seemed ill
thought out. I was puzzled by some of the inclusions as to why they were
considered portraits at all.
Scottish Writers, Poets, Artists and
Politicians Not on Display - Liz Lochead
(Scottish Makar), Carol Ann Duffy, Hamish Henderson, Norman McCaig, Sorely
MacLean, Iain Crichton Smith, Jim Kelman, Alex Salmond, Gordon Brown...
read an article in the Scotsman (below ) and agreed with so much of it.
(Extract below) Lesley Riddoch points out that the Portrait gallery
appears to focus on the Upper Classes and in this sense does not represent the
inclusive forward thinking Scotland of today.
THE National Portrait Gallery lacks
images of Scots the general public would recognise or could name, writes Lesley
Riddoch, May 2012
Is the Scottish Portrait Gallery capturing the zeitgeist of modern Scotland?
Is it meant to? Reaction to the gallery’s renovation has been overwhelmingly
positive since it reopened at Christmas. There’s no question the building’s
interior looks splendid – but what about the contents? I found myself mightily
disappointed by the relative absence of modern Scots on display and slightly
bored by the much larger areas given over to “imperial history.” Hey ho, I
thought. That’s just me. But then last week, the genial giant and subversive sculptor
George Wyllie died and I found myself thinking about his curious absence from
our National Portrait Gallery. George was universally popular. With the Straw
Locomotive, 80-foot Paper Boat, giant nappy pin outside the Glasgow Maternity
Hospital and Walking Clock outside the bus station, George fused everyday life,
industrial heritage and Glasgow humour together like a master welder.