John Byrne to stage major Art Festival exhibition

John Byrne. Pic: Jon Savage
John Byrne. Pic: Jon Savage
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RENOWNED playwright and artist John Byrne will showcase a major exhibition at the Edinburgh Art Festival – which has taken “Commonwealth” as this year’s theme.

Coinciding with Glasgow 2014, the visual art spectacular has invited five feted curators from Commonwealth
countries – New Zealand, South Africa, India, Canada and England – to exhibit work by 20 artists that will attempt to delve into the “ideas, ideals and myths which underpin notions of community, common-wealth and the commons”.

More than 280,000 visitors are expected to attend the art bonanza – which is celebrating its 11th birthday – and being hosted across 30 venues but with the principal exhibition flashed over four floors at the City Arts Centre.

At least half of the work going on display this year has never been seen before in the UK and includes a Scottish debut for leading contemporary artist Isa Genzken as well as major exhibitions by Wim Delvoye, Susan Hiller, Leon Morrocco, together with a new commission by Tris Vonna-Michell.

In-depth art historical surveys – including an overview of American Impressionism featuring works by Degas, Monet, Cassatt, Sargent and Whistler – will take place at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

The 2014 art festival will also boast a presentation of nature studies by renowned art critic and artist John Ruskin at Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the only UK showing of Chinese treasures from Ming: The Golden Empire at National Museum of Scotland.

Sorcha Carey, director of Edinburgh Art Festival, said it was the first time festival organisers had directly commissioned their own exhibition.

She said: “In the past we have tended to focus on commissioning projects for public sites around the city and the exhibitions programme is led by individual galleries’ own exhibition teams.

“We are going to have a really unique conversation between a really strong Scottish arts scene and a really strong international scene.”

And she added: “This is less about depicting elements of Commonwealth life and more about what Commonwealth means to people now in the 21st century. We wanted to use the Commonwealth Games as an opportunity to reflect more on broader questions.”

Councillor Steve Cardownie, Edinburgh’s festivals and events champion, said: “The Edinburgh Art Festival has delivered another fantastic and diverse programme for 2014, which includes exciting new artworks for public spaces in the Capital.

“As the largest arts festival in the UK, the EAF brings the very best in the visual arts from across the globe to Edinburgh, greatly enhancing the city’s excellent reputation as home to the world’s greatest festivals.”

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com