Search for new art at Scottish Parliament building

Scottish Parliament - wall mounted textile panels by Norma Starszakowna, which hang in Tower 3 1st floor Circulation Space'. Pic: Neil Hanna
Scottish Parliament - wall mounted textile panels by Norma Starszakowna, which hang in Tower 3 1st floor Circulation Space'. Pic: Neil Hanna
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SCOTTISH Parliament bosses are set to go on a hunt for new artwork to put on display in the building at Holyrood.

They say some of the pieces currently on show need to be removed for long-term care, opening up an opportunity to refresh the parliament’s collection.

And they argue it is also time to update the stock with works from artists who are not yet featured.

A total of £330,000 was spent on acquiring pieces of contemporary and modern art when the collection was first started in 2002 and since then only eight new pieces have been purchased.

The cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), which is responsible for the building, has backed the idea of “developing” the collection but is awaiting a further report from officials. It is expected this could include arranging loans of artwork as well as some purchases and potentially commissioning new pieces.

No budget has yet been set for buying new artworks.

The parliament currently has – owned or loaned – 254 paintings, photography, sculpture, installation, mixed media work, textiles and furniture, representing 73 artists, most of them practising in Scotland.

A report to the SPCB said the collection, which explores Scotland’s culture, history and identity, was an important aspect of the experience of visiting the parliament.

“Since its establishment, for a number of reasons, collecting has been on a modest and occasional basis. There is currently no specified capital budget available for new acquisitions or commissions.

“The parliament’s art collection is now 15 years old and would benefit from additional artworks being added to the collection to bring it up-to-date with emerging and mid-career artists not yet represented in the Scottish 
Parliament.

“The majority of the collection is on long-term display as at this stage in its development, there are no reserve collections in storage. This brings challenges to ensuring the long-term care of and future access to the original founding collection, especially as it is displayed in a working building.”

But Lothian Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour said he was opposed to any new purchases, adding: “I can understand we need to have pictures and paintings on the walls in the parliament, but I would have thought there are many opportunities to borrow pictures from the National Gallery or the Gallery of Modern Art or elsewhere.

“I would be against us buying any pictures for the parliament because I don’t think that’s what taxpayers’ money should be used for, particularly when there are other options available.

“I would encourage them to rotate artworks and have new stuff in, but use paintings and other works which are owned by the state already rather than buying new ones.”

A parliament spokesman said: “The last piece of art purchased by the parliament was in 2015. No budget has been set aside for purchases.”