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Makeover delay could see exhibition leave city

ONE of the longest-running art exhibitions in Scotland may have to be staged outside Glasgow for the first time in its 152-year history if plans to revitalise its historic home fall through.

HISTORIC EVENT: Judges select pieces for the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts' annual exhibition, which may have to move from the city for the first time this year. Picture: Mark Mainz
HISTORIC EVENT: Judges select pieces for the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts' annual exhibition, which may have to move from the city for the first time this year. Picture: Mark Mainz

The Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts (RGI) wants the empty McLellan Galleries to be re-opened in time for this year's annual exhibition in the autumn.

Karin Currie, president of the RGI, said if Glasgow City Council – owner of the premises in Sauchiehall Street – does not speed up its appraisal of the building, the RGI may have to find a large venue outside the city.

In recent years, the exhibition has been staged at the Mitchell Library, but that arrangement is at an end.

Ms Currie said: "We will have to consider all and any available options if there isn't some imminent progress on the part of the city council.

"We have to find out what is happening at the McLellan by the end of this month."

The McLellan Galleries are still in good condition but need an investment of about £100,000.

Ms Currie recently told those with an interest in the RGI that the campaign to bring the McLellan back into use had gone "full circle".

She added: "It is particularly frustrating that the galleries are in essentially good condition, in principle available for the RGI's 152nd annual exhibition later this year, requiring a modest amount of work to facilitate it, for which funding is available."

In recent years, the McLellan Galleries have languished in obscurity in the city centre, and are closed to the public.

Built in 1856, the galleries are named after Archibald McLellan, a coach builder, councillor and influential patron of the arts. The RGI's first annual exhibition in 1861 was at the McLellan Galleries, and the building hosted it until the galleries were required to house the collections of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum during renovation.

Ms Currie is frustrated that an options appraisal for the building is meant to be being performed by the council, but with no timetable for its completion.

She said: "We are talking about Scotland's biggest open annual exhibition... [and] finding somewhere commensurate with the McLellan Galleries in the city is impossible."

A city council spokesman said: "After a meeting chaired by the RGI towards the end of last year and attended by many interested parties, it was decided to set up a steering group to consider future options for the building. This process is ongoing.

"The council is very aware of the heritage of this building and its importance to so many."

The RGI was formed in 1861 when 10 prominent Glasgow citizens met to discuss holding exhibitions of living artists' work. Since then, works by artists such as the Glasgow Boys, John Singer Sargent and Whistler have been exhibited at the annual show.

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