Picture perfect

This article is from 2007.

From international stars like Andy Warhol and Picasso to Turner Prize winners and home grown talent, Alexander Kennedy finds rich pickings in the Edinburgh Art Festival

Now in its fourth year, Edinburgh Art Festival has become a month-long series of internationally significant exhibitions that fills the capital’s art galleries and museums with works by some of the most respected and best-known artists in the world. It’s difficult to beat Warhol and Picasso, for starters. Both artists stand as monolithic, influential presences at the beginning and middle of the 20th century, respectively. Both created highly original and challenging art objects whose influence can still be felt in the work of contemporary artists. A selection of the best of Scotland’s talent will also be on show, including work by artists such as Alex Hartley and David Batchelor.

This is the first year that the Edinburgh Art Festival has had its own director, Joanne Brown, giving it a separate existence and a sense of independence from the International Festival. The EAF brings together over 30 individual exhibition spaces, excluding a host of smaller temporary spaces under the Annuale banner, (the EAF’s Fringe equivalent), and an ever increasing amount of artists at all stages in their careers.

Keith Hartley, curator of the Andy Warhol exhibition at the National Gallery says: ‘The Festival is an amazing opportunity for Scottish artists to be given an international profile. Not only do people from all round the world come to Edinburgh at that time, but also the world’s press is here.’
He continues, ‘Warhol appeals on many levels. He’s popular in the best sense of the word.’
Hartley has managed to bring together some of the most important works by Warhol, with many of the pieces coming from the recently purchased world class Anthony d’Offay collection. Work on show will include drawings, prints, paintings, sculptures and films by the artist, characterised by his love of celebrity and the gaudy trappings of capitalist culture, as well as his relationship with death as an abstract and his own mortality.

The body is also scrutinized in the Naked Portrait exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It takes an obsession with the glamour and beauty of well-known sitters to a new level, with famous cultural figures stripped for our delectation and study in work that hopes to reveal intimate and sometimes shocking likenesses of the artist’s model. The exhibition includes paintings, photographs, sculptures and prints by Lucien Freud, Tracy Emin, David Hockney and Picasso.
The work of Pablo Picasso is also on show at two of the capital’s major galleries and museums. The Dean Gallery’s Picasso on Paper exhibition is drawn from the Staatsgalerie Museum in Stuttgart, and comprises 65 prints, 15 drawings and ten illustrated books by the most formidable artistic geniuses of the last century. The work on show charts the artist’s career from his early ‘Rose Period’, through his world-changing cubist works, to later surrealist compositions.

The Ingleby Gallery will also show work by some of the art world’s leading figures, presented in four short exhibitions throughout the Festival that demonstrate the importance of Scotland as a major player in the international art community and market. ‘We have tried to balance bringing new or important artists to a Scottish audience, with support for both younger and established artists within Scotland,’ says Caroline Broadhurst at Ingleby. The series of exhibitions that the gallery has planned for August will guarantee that Festival visitors will not be disappointed, with work by Rachael Whiteread, David Batchelor, Nikolia Suetin, Richard Serra, Francesca Woodman and James Hugonin. The pieces on show range from cool sculptural conceptualism and proto-minimalist spiritual canvases characterised by Whiteread and Suetin to the seductive shiny glowing plastic constructions of David Batchelor.

The Talbot Rice Gallery will also be staging a major exhibition of Batchelor’s multicoloured light-works. ‘He is an important international artist, who, unknown to many people, was born in Scotland,’ says Talbot Rice curator Pat Fisher. ‘He’s not had a major exhibition in his own country, and we felt that we should redress this. His work is visually compelling and joyful, but is supported with intellectual rigor. He’s the perfect match for the festival – in terms of status, nationality, visual impact and celebration.’

The awareness that international attention has shifted to the city of Edinburgh for this month, to its streets, buildings and urban geography, is taken up by a collection of artists exhibiting in August. An examination of space, place, the city and its surrounding landscape links the work of artists exhibiting as part of the Jardin Publics project, the Studio – In the Fields exhibitors, land artist Richard Long, and city boys Nathan Coley and Alex Hartley, for example. Jardin Publics will exhibit the work of three internationally renowned artists (Michael Lin, Apolonija Sustersic and Richard Wright) who invite us to consider the garden as a social rather than a private or natural space – a cultivated and artificial environment. Richard Long brings ‘natural’ objects and materials into the gallery and surrounding land at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, while a group of artists exhibiting under the Studio In the Fields moniker will ask the viewer to turn their attention to the streets themselves, the tarmac and the litter.

2007 Turner Prize nominee Nathan Coley’s work at Doggerfisher also deals with how we fit into our built environment, how the city moulds and upholds our social roles and values. This is taken to an extreme in the work of Alex Hartley at The Fruitmarket Gallery, where as architectural historian, builder, rambler, and climber, Hartley unites his experience of the city and its building, presenting photographs and an installation that document the buildings he has climbed throughout Scotland. ‘I hope that the Gallery-goer takes away a snapshot of a vital, vibrant art scene,’ says Fiona Bradley, director of the Fruitmarket, ‘and some really first-rate artistic experiences that will stay with them and inform how they see the world for some time to come.’

Alex Hartley, The Fruitmarket Gallery, until 31 Oct, free; Andy Warhol, National Gallery Complex, 4 Aug–1 Sep, £8 (£6); David Batchelor, Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh, until 29 Sep, free; Jardin Publics, various locations, Edinburgh, 10 Aug–2 Sep, free; Naked Portrait, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, until 1 Sep, £6 (£4); Nathan Coley, Doggerfisher, until 15 Sep, free; Piccaso on Paper, Dean Gallery, until 23 Sep, £6 (£4); Rachel Whiteread, Ingleby Gallery, until 4 Aug, free; David Batchelor and Nikolia Suetin, Richard Serra and Francesca Woodman, James Hugonin and Howard Skempton, all Ingleby Gallery, dates vary, free; Richard Long – Walking and Marking, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, until 21 Oct, £6 (£4).

David Batchelor: Unplugged

  • 4 stars

Excessive, riotous, celebratory accumulations of coloured objects arranged into clustered sculptures that focuses attention on the hidden beauty of throwaway consumer kitsch.

Alex Hartley

  • 4 stars

This exhibition begins on the outside, on the façade of the Fruitmarket Gallery (clad in an image of itself) which Hartley, an enthusiastic 'builderer' (climbing on buildings), marked with routes that he has climbed as preparation for the exhibition. Inside the gallery, Hartley's photographs examine the relationship an…

Richard Long: Walking and Marking

  • 4 stars

As one of this country's most important land artists, Long takes over the SNGMA with works that record and relate to his treks around the world. Paintings, photographs and sculptures spill out into the surrounding landscape, with mud and rocks from the surrounding countryside used as raw materials for his installations.

The Naked Portrait

A major new bold and innovative exhibition exploring the many ways in which artists have drawn, painted, printed, sculpted and photographed the naked body. Bringing together around 200 examples from 1906 to the present day the collection includes works by well-known figures like Egon Schiele, Lucian Freud, Diane Arbus and…

Nathan Coley

  • 3 stars

New set of installations from the Turner-shortlisted artist. The aesthetic is deliberately botched DIY, which feels somewhat disengaging, and while this exhibition continues Coley's fascination with the way religion imprints on cities, the cheeky irrereverence of his previous takes on the subject is sadly absent.

Jardins Publics

An exhibition of specially commissioned works by internationally renowned artists displayed in three locations around the city, that invite us to consider the garden as a cultivated, man made environment. 'Part of the Edinburgh International Festival 2007'.

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