Room with a view - Ingleby Gallery
This article is from 2008.
From much-missed nightclub space to the biggest commercial gallery outside of London, Kirstin Innes goes behind the scenes at the new Ingleby Gallery
When the dank, dearly-loved nightclub and gig space known as The Venue closed its doors in June 2006, there were rumblings of doom from various sections of Edinburgh society. It was widely assumed that the vacant five-storey building, occupying a prime spot of real estate behind Waverley Station, would be the next victim of the city’s scavenging property developers.
‘Well, at least it’s not going to be luxury flats,’ says the new owner, grinning. The bottom three floors of the building have been bought by Florence Ingleby who, together with her husband Richard, has been running the excellent Ingleby Gallery from the rather more genteel New Town for the past ten years. They’ve been responsible for bringing James Turrell, Peter Liversidge and Sean Scully to Edinburgh, and also developed a particularly close relationship with the late Scottish word artist Ian Hamilton Finlay, whose estate they now represent.
With no overriding manifesto other than, ‘to show really great things in a really great way’, the Inglebys turned a room of their Georgian townhouse into a continually morphing space whose very foundations seemed to alter with every new exhibition. However, they feel the time is right to be moving on. ‘We’ve outgrown that space in every sense and every direction,’ says Florence Ingleby. ‘We have a much greater understanding of what we want to do now. And it’s incredibly simple, really: we just want to make life a little less ordinary, for ourselves and for everybody.’
Taking up 6000sq ft over three floors (the two upper levels are to be rented out to local artists for studio space), the rehoused Ingleby on Calton Road is set to become the biggest commercial gallery outside of London, but Florence Ingleby is clearly enthused by the location as much as the scale of the place. ‘Given where we’ve just come from, I like being slightly down and dirty. OK, central Edinburgh doesn’t really do down and dirty, but it’s about as urban as it gets. It feels like a place with a bit of energy, and I think it’s giving our whole project a new lease of life.’
She’s clearly a little bit in love with her new home and the freedom it affords. Rather than opening with the splash of a big name in the main exhibition space, they’re putting on the first Scottish exhibition of US artist Kay Rosen’s sly, large-scale word-play pieces, which as Ingleby points out, have a very appropriate precedent in the gallery: ‘She’s like Ian Hamilton Finlay, but wittier.’ In the smaller ground floor gallery, Edinburgh-born artist Susan Collis has created a cheeky trompe-l’oeil version of the building site that existed as recently as May, out of precious stones with mother-of pearl paint spills on the floor and solid gold screws hanging out of the walls.
It’s the third exhibition space that will have the most significance for the city as a whole, though. Outside of the nightclub was a very visible advertising holding that has been occupied by Alison Goldfrapp since The Venue closed. Reinvented for the new Ingleby as ‘Billboard for Edinburgh’, the space will be occupied by a quarterly-changing, specially-created work by an internationally renowned artist, which will also have a limited print run for sale in the gallery. It’s a measure of the huge esteem the Inglebys are held in that the first artist is 2006 Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger.
While the aim is to make this sort of work immediately accessible, it’s also perfectly in keeping with the spirit behind their new venture. ‘There is a sort of fear around contemporary art; people don’t feel confident about it,’ says Ingleby. ‘Private galleries can be intimidating places and we’ve tried very, very hard to avoid that. We want the new gallery to have a hum, and a throb, and a sense of possibility. You can wander out of the station and just pop in on your way past, get a blast of what’s there. You don’t have to love it. But I want people to.’
The Ingleby Gallery reopens at Calton Road, 0131 556 4441, 31 Jul; Mark Wallinger’s Billboard for Edinburgh will be unveiled on 1 Aug.