New art centre on Calton Hill set for first exhibition

The contemporary pieces by artists who work between specialisms will form the first exhibition at the art centre at the newly restored City Observatory and City Dome on Calton Hill.
The contemporary pieces by artists who work between specialisms will form the first exhibition at the art centre at the newly restored City Observatory and City Dome on Calton Hill.
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NEW specially-commissioned works by selected Scottish and international artists will form the opening exhibition at Edinburgh’s new contemporary art centre on Calton Hill.

The £4.5 million Collective development includes the newly restored historic City Observatory; the nearby City Dome, also restored; a brand new exhibition and office space embedded into the hillside; a purpose-built restaurant, The Outlook; and Transit House, originally used as an observatory but now to form the centre’s education base for visiting schools and groups.

The centre will open to the public on Saturday, November 24.

The opening exhibition, Affinity and Allusion, features sculpture, installation, performance, audio work and text by six artists on themes related to the history of Calton Hill.

All the artists – Dineo Seshee Bopape, James N Hutchinson, Alexandra Laudo, Tessa Lynch, Catherine Payton and Klaus Weber – work between specialisms: sculpture and film, performance and writing, science and art.

Formerly based on Cockburn Street, Collective – which dates back to 1984 – moved to a temporary gallery space on Calton Hill in 2013 and began fundraising to redevelop the site, which has been unused since 2009.

The City Observatory, designed by William Playfair in 1818, played a key role in the history of astronomy and timekeeping in the Capital and will have on display the original telescope installed there in 
1831.

The new exhibition building, named The Hillside, will have a panoramic viewing terrace on its roof.

And there will also be stunning views from the Lookout restaurant, run by the team behind The Gardeners’ Cottage.

Kate Gray, director of Collective, said after more than five years of fundraising and hard work it was exciting to be opening for visitors at last. She said: “This is a very important and significant site and we wanted to treat it with the respect it deserves. The mixture of old and new is a complex balance to get right.

“I can’t wait to open the gate and welcome everyone in.

“We are thinking of it as a new kind of observatory – bringing together the histories of the site, but looking through that to the future as well.

“We will always be presenting new work by living artists in the context of the amazing histories which converge on the site anyway.”

Ms Gray said many of those who had visited the exhibitions Collective has mounted since 2013 were new to contemporary art.

“It’s not necessarily what people expect when they walk up to a neo-classical building. There is a huge opportunity to attract people who have not visited contemporary arts organisations in the past.”

City council culture convener Donald Wilson said Calton Hill was set to become one of the most unique “must visit” destinations in the city.

“I am delighted we have been able to support the project. It is surely one of the most significant conservation projects to take place in Edinburgh in recent times,” he said.

iswanson@edinburghnews.com