Home of modern arts has to close its doors

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An arts gallery that has showcased modern works and botanical treasures for 30 years is to close to save money.

Inverleith House — an 18th-century mansion and founding home of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art — is at the centre of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). Simon Milne, the regius keeper at the garden, said the institution can no longer afford to run the house as a gallery as it has to concentrate on its core work of horticulture and botanical studies.

The house’s current show, I still believe in miracles, which celebrates three decades of contemporary art, may be the last of its kind. It features works from leading artists such as Douglas Gordon, Jim Lambie, Richard Wright, Ed Ruscha and Louise Bourgeois, who have previously exhibited there.

Mr Milne said art may be shown in other areas of the garden — which attracts 800,000 visitors a year — but other uses will be found for Inverleith House. “These are hard financial times for everyone and we couldn’t afford to sustain it . . . We have to focus on our core programmes,” he added.


Inverleith House art gallery at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh

Since 1994 the Scottish Arts Council and its successor body, Creative Scotland, have given £1.5 million in funding to the gallery. Creative Scotland said: “The importance of the gallery to contemporary visual art and artists in Scotland cannot be understated and its loss will be profoundly felt.

“We understand the financial pressures that RBGE are under . . . However, we would have hoped that the value that Inverleith House brings to the garden, to the public and to Scotland as a space for art and creativity could have been better recognised and resulted in a different decision.”

Twitter users expressed their disappointment at the “awful” decision.

Writing in The List arts magazine, the critic Neil Cooper said: “Under the curatorship of Paul Nesbitt, Inverleith House became a pioneering venue that showed early work by many Scottish artists alongside a bold international programme which has consistently sat alongside a parallel programme of botanical-based work.”

He added: “Inverleith House has also presented more exhibitions by Turner prize winners and nominees than any other gallery in the UK apart from the Tate gallery in London.”