Creative Scotland appoints Artland founder to top job

Robert Wilson has taken over from Ben Thomson as chair of Creative Scotland.
Robert Wilson has taken over from Ben Thomson as chair of Creative Scotland.
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The multi-millionaire founder of a vast sculpture park on the outskirts of Edinburgh is to take over as chair of troubled arts quango Creative Scotland.

Robert Wilson, who has commissioned a host of leading Scottish and UK artists to design work for Jupiter Artland, near Ratho, has taken over from merchant banker Ben Thomson.

The new figurehead for the body has been unveiled days after it was forced to climb down over controversial funding cuts to several companies following an intervention from the Scottish Government, which appoints Creative Scotland’s chair, as well as provides most of its funding.

Mr Thomson had been chairing the quango on an interim basis following the death of previous chair Richard Findlay last summer.

Mr Wilson is the chairman and co-owner of healthcare firm Nelsons, which has been run by his family since 1972. He and his wife Nicky spent several years creating Jupiter Artland in the 100-acre grounds of Bonnington House, the Jacobean manor house the art collectors bought in 1999.

Artists who have produced work for Jupiter Artland include Charles Jencks, Laura Ford, Antony Gormley, Nathan Coley, Jim Lambie and 
Cornelia Parker.

Mr Wilson has also had extensive involvement in the cultural sector.

He was chair of Edinburgh Art Festival and a trustee of Little Sparta, the late artist Ian Hamilton Finlay’s sculpture garden in Lanarkshire, and the Dovecot Studios and the Royal Botanic Garden, both in Edinburgh.

He said: “Creativity has the power to touch all aspects of a nation, and the Scottish people have long embraced culture with a passion.

“To be appointed chair of Creative Scotland is an enormous honour and one I’m extremely proud to accept.”

He went on: “I look forward to working with my fellow colleagues from across all aspects of the sector to celebrate and champion the vibrant cultural scene that belongs to Scotland.”

Creative Scotland came under widespread attack last month after stripping 20 companies of three-year funding deals under a shake-up of how a £99 million budget is spent.

But Birds of Paradise, Catherine Wheels, Lung Ha, Visible Fictions and the Dunedin Consort saw the cuts reversed after culture secretary Fiona Hyslop intervened.

She said: “Robert brings a wide range of leadership experience in the commercial, philanthropic and charitable sectors, with particular experience of the arts, including festivals and the visual arts.

“I welcome the leadership he will bring to Creative Scotland in taking forward their future strategy and supporting our vibrant creative sectors.”

Creative Scotland said previously it would be looking to overhaul the way it provides long-term funding, with chief executive Janet Archer saying that lessons would be learned from the past.