Conversations with the Collection | Architecture and Abstraction

Open daily, 10am–5pm

Admission free


Part of Conversations with the Collection


Art and architecture developed in parallel throughout the 20th century. In pioneering art schools like the Bauhaus in Germany (1919–33), the two fields, together with craft and design, were understood as an integrated response to the demands of daily life. This produced a new generation of artists, who viewed abstract art as an important influence on architecture, and vice versa. Geometric shapes like squares, rectangles and triangles were often used as the building blocks for an image or design. With harmonious arrangements of interlocking forms, artists looked to the new functional architecture for inspiration. Pared back to only essential elements, with little adornment, these buildings were adapted to meet the new realities of modern life.  

The widespread destruction of the Second World War marred this optimism, but also brought about new ways of looking at and imagining the future of our built environment. Artists continued to reference architecture as a starting point for paintings that looked abstract, but still evoked real world spaces and places. 

Paintings by the British artist Prunella Clough reflected the growing urbanisation of the country’s landscape and, simultaneously, became increasingly abstract. Often, she mimicked the distance of the camera lens. In her works, this means we could be looking at something in either extreme close-up, or as a long-range or aerial view. Her signature blend of observation and ambiguity produced one of the defining visions of the post-war period, intimately connected to the evolution of our cityscapes. 

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Display accessibility

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Gallery facilities

Detailed information on accessibility at the National Galleries of Scotland

Parking for visitors is available at both Modern One and Modern Two. A donation is requested of £5 for up to 4 hours and £9 for 4-8 hours. Our payment meters have contactless capability. There is free accessible parking for blue badge holders.

  • Information desk
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair access
  • Accessible toilets
  • Changing places toilet
  • Wheelchairs available
  • Public toilets
  • Disabled parking
  • Lockers (£1/£2)
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Buggy park
  • Seating throughout
  • Bike rack
  • Parking
  • Café
Getting here

Getting here

The Modern is located 15 minutes’ walk from Princes Street. It includes two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two, set in a beautiful sculpture park.

Venue map
  • Open daily, 10am–5pm
  • Open daily, 10am–5pm
73 & 75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR

Conversations with the Collection

Conversations with the Collection

This is display is part of Conversations with the Collection, a changing programme of displays that offers visitors a brand new way to experience the national collection. 

A celebration of Scottish and international modern and contemporary art, the thematic displays place creativity and conversation at their core by considering how dialogue and exchange shape and reshape artistic process.

Audio tours

Audio tours

Welcome Audio Tour

For this tour, our curators introduce the themes of the display room by room and explain how they have drawn from the collection of modern and contemporary art to unearth evocative stories and create bold comparisons between the artists, ideas and ways of making. 

A conversation piece

For this tour audio tour of the Conversations with the Collection display at Modern One we have invited guests to share their thoughts on a selection of artworks from the display. Not knowing in advance which artworks they would be discussing, these responses are honest, real and unscripted. 

Audio Described Tour

Enjoy a selection of audio descriptions of artworks at from Conversations with the Collection. Taking over the top level of Modern One, this display is a celebration of Scottish and international modern and contemporary art.

Families | Art chat

Families | Art chat

Designed for families aged 6+ our art chat guide helps you explore the different artworks in this exhibition and encourages you to make your own. Available to pick up in gallery or download.

Friends go free

Friends go free

Become a Friend to enjoy unique access to the nation’s art collection with unlimited free entry to exhibitions, Friends-only exhibition previews and a 10% discount in our gallery shops & cafés.

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