Stars line up to save Botanics art gallery from closure

Inverleith House could yet win a reprievePicture: Colin Hattersley
Inverleith House could yet win a reprievePicture: Colin Hattersley
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BATMAN star Val Kilmer, Ewan McGregor, Irvine Welsh, Fran Healey and Janet Street-Porter are among more than 230 leading cultural figures demanding a rethink over the sudden closure of an Edinburgh art gallery after 30 years.

Turner Prize winners Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Douglas Gordon, Martin Boyce, Jeremy Deller and Anish Kapoor have also put their names to an open letter urging the Royal Botanic Garden to reopen Inverleith House.

Hollywood star Val Kilmer has given his support. Picture: Getty

Hollywood star Val Kilmer has given his support. Picture: Getty

It warns that the permanent closure of the gallery is of “international cultural significance” and will also represent an “enormous loss to Scottish culture”.

Inverleith House is believed to have staged more exhibitions by Turner Prize winners and nominees than any other UK gallery, except the Tate in London.

Botanics chiefs have been under mounting pressure since they announced the end of regular exhibitions after it was decided to explore alternative uses for the 18th-century building.

More than 9000 people have backed an online petition calling for “one of the city’s best-loved and most significant arts spaces” to remain open, while around 700 protesters turned out to demonstrate on the final day of a special 30th anniversary exhibition.

Stars including Val Kilmer and Ewan McGregor are among 230 leading cultural figures to back a rescue bid for the Botanics Art Gallery. Picture: Colin Hattersley

Stars including Val Kilmer and Ewan McGregor are among 230 leading cultural figures to back a rescue bid for the Botanics Art Gallery. Picture: Colin Hattersley

The open letter has been sent to two Scottish Government ministers responsible for the Botanics – culture secretary Fiona Hyslop and environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham.

Creative Scotland has also been urged to intervene over the fate of Inverleith House, which had a bid for long-term funding turned town by the arts agency in 2014. However, the Botanics was given special funding by the quango last October for a series of special anniversary projects, including a study into the long-term future of exhibitions there.

The open letter states: “Over the last 30 years, Inverleith House has attained a world-class reputation for both its programming and its incomparable beauty as a space for viewing contemporary art and botanical exhibitions.

“Paul Nesbitt and his team have shone a light on otherwise unseen archival botanical materials, nurtured Scottish artists at key moments in their careers and brought the work of groundbreaking international artists to the UK. This remarkable achievement has been accomplished with minimal staffing and modest financial support.

“While we accept that the future of Inverleith House falls within the jurisdiction of the Royal Botanic Garden, we feel that its loss is of international cultural significance.

“In light of widespread public dismay, we ask that the decision to bring to an end 30 years of contemporary art programming at Inverleith House be reopened for debate at the next meeting of the board of trustees in December.

“We also urge the board to work with Creative Scotland to seek ways of securing the long-term future of Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery, a future that reflects its 30 years of excellence in visual art and botanical programming.”