Conversations with the Collection | Selves and Stand-Ins

Open daily, 10am–5pm

Admission free


Part of Conversations with the Collection


What do we mean by ‘selves’? And what does it mean to substitute or perform them? Each with a different relationship to the body, the artworks in this room explore questions like these. 

In the world around us, bodies are often too easily categorised according to social constructs of age, class, gender, race, sexuality, and many other markers of identity. The body in art can expose or question these constructs and their related power structures. Some of the artworks here engage with these ideas by challenging stereotypes. Others undo the notion that identity is singular and stable and therefore easily determined. 

Elsewhere in this room, artists document the boundaries and limitations of our bodies. These include explorations of physical and mental endurance, the use of subcultural or countercultural practices, and the role of ritual and customs in our lives. 

In some artworks, artists use the body as a medium through which to represent a particular identity; either their own – combining the personal and the political – or one based on social constructs. In other instances, actual bodies are absent, and a body part stands in for the whole, or a sensuous material evokes a bodily presence. All the selves and stand-ins here relate to performance, theatricality, or staging. They prompt us to think about authenticity and the everyday performativity of identity. 

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  • Wheelchair access


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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

A conversation piece

For this 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.

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. 

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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