5 new exhibitions coming to the galleries this year

Find out what new exhibitions are coming to the galleries this year. In addition to our current exhibitions, Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema and Joan Eardley & Catterline, our forthcoming exhibitions programme will showcase brand new contemporary painting, a UK and European premier and sublime photography.

Alison Watt: A Portrait Without Likeness

17 July 2021 until 9 January 2022, Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Alison Watt is widely regarded as one of the leading painters working in the UK today. We are so excited to exhibit a significant body of her new work made in response to the practice of the celebrated 18-century portrait artist Allan Ramsay (1713-84).

The exhibition will explore the artist’s continuing fascination with Ramsay’s portraits. Watt, most known for her beautiful and intricate large-scale paintings of drapery and folds, has long been an admirer of Ramsay’s portraits of women, in particular the intensely personal images of his first and second wives, Margaret Lindsay of Evelick (c. 1726-82) and Anne Bayne (d. 1743).

The exhibition is the fruit of a long period of study of Ramsay paintings, in addition to the drawings and sketchbooks from his extensive archive held by the National Galleries of Scotland.

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Allan Ramsay Margaret Lindsay of Evelick: The Artist's Wife, about 1726 - 1782 1758 - 1760
Alison Watt (b. 1965) Centifolia, 2019. Oil on canvas, 75.5cm x 62cm. Collection of the Artist. © Alison Watt

Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour

29 July until 10 October 2021, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One).

In partnership with Edinburgh Art Festival, this is the UK and European premiere of a major new ten-screen film installation by celebrated British artist Isaac Julien.

Julien’s Lessons of the Hour 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.

Filmed at sites in Edinburgh and other locations in Scotland, London and at Douglass’ home in Washington DC, Julien’s film portrait is informed by some of the abolitionist's most important speeches, weaving historical scenes with footage from recent times to foreground the continued relevance and urgency of Douglass’ words in the present day. 

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Isaac Julien, J. P. Ball Studio, 1867 Douglass (Lessons of the Hour), 2019. Framed photograph on gloss inkjet paper mounted on aluminium. Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice.

Thomas Joshua Cooper: The World's Edge

31 July 2021 until 23 January 2022, Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Over the course of the last three decades, Thomas Joshua Cooper (b. 1946) has circumnavigated the globe making photographs of the most extreme points and locations surrounding the Atlantic Ocean. 

The result is an episodic journey that covers five continents (Europe, Africa, North America, South America, and Antarctica). He has set foot on uncharted land masses, contributing to cartography and earning him naming rights of previously unknown islands and archipelagos. The only artist to have ever made photographs of the two poles, Cooper refers to the body of work as The World’s Edge – The Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity. This exhibition, based on the 2019 presentation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, will feature around 35 photographs in the Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Gallery at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

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Thomas Joshua Cooper, The Caribbean, Sea, Columbus Point, Saint Patrick County, the South-Most Point of the Isle of Tobago, the Lesser Antilles, 2005. Gelatin silver print. Long loan in 2019.
Leonora Carrington Portrait of Max Ernst About 1939 © Estate of Leonora Carrington / ARS, NY and DACS, London 2018.

New Arrivals: From Salvador Dalí to Jenny Saville

28 November 2021 until Spring 2023, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One).

This stunning exhibition will showcase nearly 100 acquisitions made over the past five years. Filling the entire ground floor of Modern One, works on display in New Arrivals will include world-class Surrealist paintings and sculptures by the likes of Salvador Dalí, Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington and René Magritte. 

A broad range of styles and movements will be represented; from recent works of film art, to a rare early-twentieth-century Cubist collage by Picasso; and from famous names such as Gwen John and Marc Chagall, to brilliant but less-celebrated figures including Marie-Louise von Motesiczky and Benjamin Creme. 

Among the contemporary works on display will be a life-size bronze by Damien Hirst, an early work by Glasgow School of Art graduate Jenny Saville, and several extraordinary pieces by a range of artists which are still under wraps.

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RUINED: Reinventing Scottish History

26 June until 14 November 2021, Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Our RUINED exhibition offers an alternative, illustrated history of Scotland through the eyes of 200 young Scots, who for the last four years have been imaginatively 'mashing-up' paintings from Scotland’s national art collection.

Visitors will enter a time-machine in which multiple video projections flicker across a set of ruins, where the shocking events and ghosts from Scotland’s past appear before their eyes, covering subjects such as false heroes and heroines, wicked tyrants and bloodied martyrs, angry mobs, territories and religion.

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Night and Fox at the Border.
1 June 2021