‘It’s devastating’: Artists react to closure of Edinburgh modern art gallery

ARTISTS in Scotland have reacted to the news that one of the country’s most prestigious art galleries is closing its doors due to a crisis in funding.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s Modern Two building in Edinburgh has been closed to the public for at least the remainder of the year.

The National Galleries of Scotland stated that the cost-of-living crisis as well as the lingering impact of the pandemic have resulted in the closure becoming necessary.

“It’s really devastating,” said award-winning animator Eilidh Nicoll. “It’s sad that Modern Two purely as a learning resource for future artists won’t be around.”

She told The National that many creatives are discovering that due to limitations in funding for arts venues they are turning more and more to the commercial sector to make a living.

Remi Jablecki is a painting student at the Edinburgh College of Art. <i>(Image: Remi Jablecki)</i>

She added: “I’m coming to terms with the fact that a lot of the work that I do – at least to make money – will be more commercial.

“During lockdown there was a lot of talk about people really appreciating the arts, because a lot of us used them as a crutch during the pandemic.

“But, now, the sector is really suffering and it seems like the value of the arts is being dismissed.”

She continued: “It makes it easy to become disillusioned and feel like there’s a lack of understanding of the importance of funding, in particular for arts venues.

“Especially when it comes to free venues like Modern Two, which can be really great places for people to visit who might not have the means otherwise to immerse themselves in arts and culture.”

Sir John Leighton, the director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, told a Holyrood committee last month that the funding model for arts organisations was under almost insurmountable pressure.

READ MORE: Edinburgh Modern Two art gallery closes doors amid funding crisis

He said: “We have reached a point now where 92% of our grant-in-aid [government subsidy] goes to the salary bill.

“All the other things that make a difference, whether it’s displays, exhibitions, education programmes – you name it – are now covered by earned income.

“And that model broke during the pandemic, of course. That income shrivelled and we are now in a period where it has not yet recovered.

“So, with the two key parts of the funding – the government subsidy and the self-generated income – under pressure, we face a crisis that will in our case lead to a severely reduced offer.”

Remi Jablecki, a painting student in his final year at the Edinburgh College of Art, said the impact of the closure cannot be under-estimated.

“We are losing a really valuable and important collection in Edinburgh and it’s just going to make it difficult for people to become interested in art,” he said.

“Given the recent economic crisis and rise in inflation I think that keeping places like Modern Two open and accessible is actually a necessity.

“What does it say about the Scotland’s culture that these places can’t afford to stay open?”

Jablecki, an immigrant who has previously spoken out against the repressive climate for LGBT+ people in his country, said that change is needed if Scotland is to foster a thriving creative sector.

He said: “Quite often art is investigative, it provides a language for renewed debate and introduces new worlds that are completely novel.

“The closure of Modern Two is just going to take away those kinds of unique voices.

“Art should never be so expensive, so commodified and so unreachable for ordinary people.”

READ MORE: Petition launched to save top independent cinemas and festival

Earlier this month the Filmhouse Cinema and Café Bar in Edinburgh and the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen shut down with immediate effect after the charity running the venues said a “perfect storm of sharply rising costs” had led to them appointing administrators.

So far, more than 20,000 people have signed a petition calling on the venues to be saved.

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