Botanic Garden told to rethink after Inverleith House closure

Inverleith House art gallery was closed suddenly at the Royal Botanic Garden just after its 30th anniversary.
Inverleith House art gallery was closed suddenly at the Royal Botanic Garden just after its 30th anniversary.
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The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh has been urged by experts to overhaul its entire approach to the arts after the controversial closure of its long-running gallery.

Inverleith House is expected to be brought back into regular use in the wake of the findings of the expert group, set up after international protests into its sudden demise just after its 30th anniversary.

A “lack of vision and leadership, low levels of artistic ambitions, confidence and a failure to commit to excellence” were all cited by the taskforce led by Christopher Breward, principal of Edinburgh College of Art.

Management have been urged to produce a five-year culture plan and set up a new arts advisory committee to help shape the blueprint for the future.

The recommended rethink would commit the Botanics to “an ambitious and holistic programme of arts, creative and cultural engagement, that will enhance and support its core mission.”

More than 10,000 people signed a protest petition, while artists Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Douglas Gordon, Martin Boyce and Anish Kapoor have been among those calling for a rethink.

The report states: “The public concern for the future of Inverleith House that has played out recently indicates significant support from the arts community (artists, public and private galleries) for the exhibitions programme and creates an opportunity to widen its network of active supporters for a programme of arts, creative and cultural engagement.

“There is also untapped potential for sponsorship from private companies and for patronage from individuals with an interest in supporting high-quality public art or being associated with a distinctive programme that has clear environmental credentials.”

The expert panel included Janet Archer, chief executive of arts agency Creative Scotland, Fruitmarket Gallery director Fiona Bradley and Sir John Leighton, head of the National Galleries of Scotland. Professor Breward said the findings were aimed at ensuring the garden has a “vibrant and respected arts programme, including the use of the distinctive spaces and legacy of Inverleith House.”

He added: “With continuing, well-informed advice, appropriate governance, clear communication and access to resource opportunities we are confident an integrated arts programme, with Inverleith House as a core platform for key exhibitions and events, could thrive.”

A spokeswoman for the Botanics said: “We are most grateful for both the individual and collective expertise within the arts working croup and to all involved for donating so much time to the task.

"We need to prioritise our tasks, which include establishing an arts advisory committee, seeking partnerships and financial investment and developing an arts programme that integrates existing and new artistic events and exhibitions with our core work.”