Edinburgh Art Festival reboots with shows inspired by impact of Black Lives Matter, Covid and the climate crisis

Edinburgh’s annual celebration of visual art will feature new work inspired by the Black Lives Matter campaign, the climate crisis, the pandemic and the “reality” of post-Brexit Britain when it returns this summer.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 11:59 pm

The city’s links with the Caribbean slave trade, the debate over the future of its memorials and monuments, and and legacy of the African-American writer and trailblazing abolitionist Frederick Douglass will take centre stage in the month-long Edinburgh Art Festival.

Organisers have revealed that month than 35 exhibitions and shows will be staged as part of the event, which will run from 29 July-29 August.

Isaac Julien’s film installation recalling the life of Douglass, a freed slave and freedom fighter who spent two years living in Edinburgh in the 1840s while he was in the UK campaigning against slavery, will be shown at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

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Lessons of the Hour, which was filmed at sites across Edinburgh, other locations in Scotland and London, and Douglass’s former home in Washington, will remain on display from the festival’s launch in July until Black History Month in October.

Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, in Newhaven, will be playing host to an exhibition by Sean Lynch which will turn the spotlight on the city’s public monuments and sculptures, the future of which is being reviewed by the council in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Jupiter Artland, the award-winning sculpture park in west Edinburgh, will be unveiling a new solo show made by Glasgow-based Turner Prize nominee Alberta Whittle.

Made in Scotland, South Africa and Barbados last year in response to the impact of Black Lives Matter, the pandemic and the climate crisis, the film is said to connect emergent fears of contagion, moral panic and xenophobia with a call to action.

A new solo show by Turner-prize co-winning artist Alberta Whittle will be staged at Jupiter Artland.

Artist Daniel Lie will also be leading a project at Jupiter Artland which will see an online broadcasting studio and residency series to “rethink ideas of life, death and eco-system renewal” in response to Black Lives Matter, Covid and climate change.

The Talbot Rice Gallery in the city centre will stage an exhibition of work reflecting life during the pandemic, which will showcase artists including Larry Achiampong, Anca Benera and Arnold Estefan, Gabrielle Goliath, Kahlil Joseph, Tonya McMullan and Sarah Rose.

The gallery is also working with Nigerian sound artist Emeka Ogboh to create a new sound installation which will be experience inside Edinburgh’s Burns Monument, a circular neo-classical pavilion built on Regent Road in 1831.

Artist Alison Scott will be unveiling new work at the Collective Gallery on Calton Hill which is said to explore “how climate and weather are entangled in the nature of our being.”

Ray Fearon stars in Isaac Julien’s film installation Lessons of the Hour, about the life of Frederick Douglass, which will be shown at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Glasgow-based artist Sekai Machache will be staging a solo show at Stills, Edinburgh’s long-running photography centre.

A major highlight of the festival, which staged a largely online programme in 2020, is expected to be a solo show by Glasgow artist which will reopen the Fruitmarket Gallery in the city centre after a £4.3 million redevelopment and expansion, which has seen the creation of a new space of live events and performances.

The late poet and sculptor Ian Hamilton Finlay will be honoured with a major exhibition at the neighbouring City Art Centre which will span several decades of his work and feature work drawn from the artist’s estate and the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland.

Turner Prize nominee Christine Borland will be staging a solo show at Inverleith House, the art gallery in the Royal Botanic Garden.

Glasgow-based artist Sekai Machache will be staging a solo show at Stills, Edinburgh’s long-running photography centre.

Sorcha Carey, Director, Edinburgh Art Festival said: “Festivals have always offered a space for gathering, and this year more than any, we are proud to come together with partners across the city to showcase the work of artists from Scotland, the UK and around the world.

“Some exhibitions are newly made in response to the seismic shifts of the past year; others are the result of many years of planning and careful research; but all are the unique, authentic, and thoughtful products of our city’s extraordinarily rich visual art scene.

"The past year has revealed how precarious things can be for artists and creative freelancers, as well as for the institutions and organisations that support the production and presentation of their work.

"As galleries begin to re-open across the city, and we look forward to welcoming audiences safely back to the festival and our city, now more than ever we need the space for community and reflection that art and artists can provide.”

Amanda Catto, head of visual arts at Creative Scotland, said: “As art unlocks across Scotland we welcome the rich and diverse programme that the Edinburgh Art Festival and its partners will be staging this year.

“We’re especially excited by the opportunity that the festival gives us to step away from our screens and to experience art in real life. It’s a great time to experience new work and to be introduced to artists whose work is less familiar, as well as to enjoy the work of artists we already know.

Isaac Julien’s film installation Lessons of the Hour, about the life of Frederick Douglass, will be shown at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

“We’d like to congratulate and thank the artists and the organisers for maintaining their vision and ambition during a challenging time for the arts and we look forward to celebrating their work in the summer of 2021.”

Paul Bush, chief executive of EventScotland, said: “Edinburgh and Scotland is a leading destination for the very best in the visual arts and EventScotland is delighted to be supporting the Edinburgh Art Festival to maintain this reputation.

"Events are an important part of our communities as they not only bring us great entertainment, they also sustain livelihoods and bring social and economic change. Following a difficult period for the industry it is wonderful to see the Edinburgh Art Festival return and once again provide a platform for emerging and established artists from across Scotland, the UK and the world to share their work."

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Karla Black's work will be going on display at the new-look Fruitmarket Gallery this summer.
Christian Newby's work will be on display at the Collective Gallery.
The City Art Centre will be hosting a major exhibition of work by Ian Hamilton Finlay.