Notions of the domestic, and all the social and political issues that spring from it, are at the core of this new permanent exhibition at the juncture of decorative and fine art that takes its basis in the domestic origins of Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art. Originally built in 1778 as the home of Tobacco Lord William Cunninghame of Lainshaw, it was financed on profits made through the triangular trade, rooted in slave labour and the trading of people as slaves from ports in Africa. As the house was expanded to become the Royal Exchange in later years, those links remained. The works which now grace the top floor of the gallery are, as Grayson Perry once put it in relation to his own work, things...”that live(s) with the eye as a beautiful piece of art, but on closer inspection, a polemic or an ideology will come out of it.”

Katie Bruce, Curator at GoMA and in charge of the top floor revamp, found her inspiration for the new display in the “discovery” of Nicola L's Untitled (Yellow Foot Sofa) in the Glasgow Museums archive. It was hiding, you might say, in plain view, catalogued under “Decorative Arts” rather than “Fine Arts”, which is the demesne of GoMA. It happens, says Bruce, because different objects are acquired by different curators down the years, whether from the museums service or the art gallery. “Finding this piece made me think of all the artists that fall between the two disciplines,” she tells me.

Bruce's mental collection of works grew - a bookcase by Ettore Sottsass, the Italian architect and designer; photographs by Nick Waplington; three pots by Grayson Perry acquired before he won the Turner Prize in 2003; the groundbreaking images taken by the photographer Jane Evelyn Atwood of Jean-Louis, “living and dying with AIDS” in the 1980s. “These were our starting points. Then we started looking at other aspects of work.” Recent acquisitions have been included along with recommendations from colleagues in other areas of Glasgow Museums. Bruce points out a “beautiful pot” by Emmanuel Cooper, a key twentieth century ceramicist and the newly acquired “Vache Vase” of Nikki de Saint Phalle. Other works were brought in from the archives of the Social History department, including some Alasdair Gray prints. “It's the joy of being a fine art gallery within a museum. We have access to such rich and diverse collections that we might not have access to elsewhere.”

Bruce and her colleagues have cleared the upstairs gallery, not simply of the last exhibition, but also of its long-term temporary walls, opening out the room in a way that it has not been for 15 years. “We didn't want it to look like a normal display, so we've incorporated domestic features such as a fireplace, or plinths that have been turned into sideboards,” says Bruce. “We've got a corner cabinet with some of the social history work in it. These are nods to domesticity and how space is broken up. Our main aim was how can you see it anew?”

One of the ways Bruce and her colleagues are trying to look at the exhibits afresh, particularly some of the older exhibits whose roots are in colonialism and the slave trade is to commission artists to respond to the exhibits. Mandy Mcintosh, an artist who works with fine art textiles and film, amongst other media, has worked with community group The Feegie Needlers in Paisley to respond to a mug produced in the 1990s with the much-maligned but very recognisable logo “Glasgow's Miles Better”. “They've made a set of mugs that relate to the lives and works of the women in Paisley,” says Bruce, who points to the sense of regeneration that began with Paisley's UK City of Culture Bid 2021. “The set will be coming in to the collection at GoMA.”

Bruce says that she has instigated this rethinking of the collections, this idea of looking at artists who work in social or political contexts through the prism of the domestic. “There have always been social justice or human rights concerns around collecting,” says Bruce. “But there's also a real ambition around aesthetics and qualities and provenance, there's a sense of relevance to people's lives and the political and social change around us.” It's an ongoing venture, says Bruce, who tells me the exhibition will change over the coming years to reflect new research. And it's also home to some very fine international and domestic (in both senses of the word) pieces, never displayed at GoMA before, that take on a new significance when placed in company.

Domestic Bliss, GoMA, Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow, 0141 287 3050 Until 31 Dec 2020, Mon – Thurs and Sat. 10am – 5pm; Fri and Sun, 11am – 5pm

Don't Miss

Senga Nengudi's radical, avant-garde work was long overlooked by the mainstream art world in the 1960s and '70s, but has come to the prominence it deserves in recent years. Key pieces from her long and varied career are shown here, including some "lost" works which the artist thought would not be created again. There is new work too, and on Tuesday 19th March, a much-anticipated talk by art gallerist pioneer Linda Goode Bryant, who championed Nengudi's work, and that of many other African American artists, in her gallery Just Above Midtown in New York in the 1980s. Don't Miss!

Senga Nengudi, Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market Street, Edinburgh, 0131 225 2383, March – 26 May, Daily 11am – 6pm. Linda Goode Bryant in conversation with Fruitmarket Director Fiona Bradley, 19 Mar, 6pm - 7pm,

Critic's Choice

Displaced is the Travelling Gallery's new Spring tour, a set of thought-provoking works from a diverse group of artists responding to global migration, to the refugee crisis and the “hostile environment”, against a backdrop of international conflict, domestic turmoil and the continued displacement of peoples.

The experimental gallery, which will wend its circuitous way through the Central Belt from Edinburgh to Renfrewshire, making its way up to Perthshire, then Fife and East Lothian, highlights the work of Halil Altindere, Brendan Bannon, Broomberg and Channarin, Elizabeth Kwant and Alberta Whittle.

Broomberg and Channarin's film “The Bureaucracy of Angels” shows the wilful destruction of 100 boats which carried refugees embarking from Libya – and rescued just off its shores in this film – in Sicily, the backdrop the emotive voice of Cantastoria (story-singer) Rosa Balistreri, singing the heart-wrenching Sicilian ballad “Terra ca nun senti”, the film showing it as if sung by the digger that destroys the boats.

Halil Altindere's work draws on the hypocrisies of airline travel for those within and outside the EU, working with a group of Syrian refugees in Turkey, who climb on top of a plane to symbolize their dangerous journey.

Elizabeth Kwant produces “vintage” posters advertising travel to Immigration Centres in “Habeus Corpus”; Alberta Whittle shows her paintings “Lessons in Welcome” and the film “Sorry not sorry” in a forthright investigation into the hostile environment for refugees, from Windrush to the modern day. Moving, too, the photographs taken by young Syrian refugees as part of a workshop with Brendan Bannon, documenting their life, the hardships, and the joy they have in “play, community and family”. Do catch the bus when it comes your way.

Displaced, Travelling Gallery, Various locations across Scotland – see Until 30 Jun

(This week: Today, Lochwinnoch Arts Festival, McKillop Institute, Main Street, 10am – 4pm/18 -22 March, Stirling, Forth Valley College)