Edinburgh gets a new centre for contemporary art this November when Collective re-open the doors of a famous old building – the City Observatory on Calton Hill – after a major restoration.
Designed by William Playfair in 1818, the building sits at the heart of one of the capital’s World Heritage sites, but has been unused since 2009. The redevelopment has restored Playfair’s original designs and means the building will be freely open to the public for the first time in its history. It marks the culmination of more than five years hard work and fundraising by Collective.
Collective have been an active force in the Scottish arts since 1984 and were formerly based on Cockburn Street. They staged early-career exhibitions by the likes of Ruth Ewan, Jeremy Deller and Claire Barclay, as well as commissioning significant new works by Hito Steyerl, Jessie Jones and Marvin Gaye Chetwynd.
For the inaugural exhibition at the new centre, they have commissioned a selection of international and Scotland-based artists. Affinity and Allusion will draw on themes connected to Calton Hill and will include work by Dineo Seshee Bopape, James N Hutchinson, Alexandra Laudo and others.
The new centre also incorporates other buildings on the site. The nearby City Dome, completed in 1895, will host a changing programme of international artists, while The Hillside will exhibit work from Collective’s Satellites Programme for emerging artists. This exhibition and office space has been embedded in the hillside in front of the City Observatory, and the panoramic viewing terrace on its roof will afford visitors wonderful views across Leith and the Firth of Forth.
The nearby Gardener’s Cottage will also be running a restaurant on the site, known as The Lookout. Visitors will also be able to see the original telescope, installed in the Observatory in 1831.
Speaking about the launch, Collective Director Kate Gray said, “Collective is situated in a very special location on Calton Hill and we hope to offer our visitors an equally special experience, combining extraordinary art and architecture with panoramic views of the city. We now extend a warm welcome to residents of Edinburgh and visitors to the city and invite them to come up and see us.”