IT once formed part of the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters, was later owned by former Hearts chairman Vladimir Romanov and is soon to be redeveloped as part of a major regeneration project.
But for the next few months, the disused bank building at 42 St Andrew Square is to be host to a massive new artwork.
David Martin, one of Scotland’s leading contemporary artists, has started work on a live painting on a seven-metre high hoarding on the front of the building.
It will evolve in situ day by day, whatever the weather and in full view of residents, commuters and visitors.
Mr Martin, founder of the Hidden Door arts festival, which turns abandoned or hidden places in the Capital into temporary arts venues, was commissioned to do the painting by the Chris Stewart Group, the firm behind the £100 million “Registers” scheme for new retail and office space.
And the artwork will eventually go on permanent display in the dramatic double-height glass lobby of the new office building planned as part of the project.
Mr Martin will be working from morning till evening to create the painting. “I’m going to be putting in some long days but I’ve got four weeks to pull it off,” he said.
He intends to paint a single standing figure, surrounded by the grand interior of the bank building. “There is an entrance hall with a large circular staircase which will feature in the painting then you go through to a large banking hall with high ceilings and lovely marble relief pillars – very grand and very striking.”
But the painting will also show the scene changing and becoming something else.
“My work is about things transforming, changing and making things new.”
“I’m not approaching it like a graffiti artist, or mural artist, but just as I would my normal paintings on canvas, and so it will go through stages of evolution – and may look quite strange for a while as I build the layers up with colour and collage material, such as old maps which create the surface interest of the painting.”
He said he was not expecting audiences to gather to watch him work. “The people of Edinburgh are too reserved for that kind of thing,” he said. “They will just pretend nothing is happening, but they might comment on it when they’ve walked on a bit.
“I have a real sense of how the painting is going to look, but even I don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out.
“It will have to take on a life of its own through the process of painting for it to be any good.”
Developer Chris Stewart said the painting would add some “colour and intrigue” to the area ahead of the regeneration scheme getting under way. “We intend for the area around West Register Street and Register Place to be recognised for its art installations as well as becoming a thriving commercial and leisure destination,” he said.