VERY much a Glasgow institution, a venue for art exhibitions,

concerts, lectures, public entertainments, bazaars and balls, the

McLellan Galleries were becoming frankly dowdy and run- down years

before fire destroyed the adjoining Trerons shop in October, 1986.

Citizens who remember them in those declining years will surely be

delighted by the present transformation.

But few people know the history of the galleries or about the man

after whom they were named.

He was one Archibald McLellan, ''a man of enlightened public spirit, a

town councillor and magistrate who interested himself in all movements

for the beautification of his native city, and for the promotion of art

and culture in the community.''

A coach-builder and collector of pictures, his ambition was to

establish an art gallery for the benefit of his fellow-citizens, and to

dedicate it for public use when he died. And so he built a block of

shops and houses facing Sauchiehall Street with three exhibition

galleries in the courtyard behind the main frontage. Sadly, though, he

died prematurely, with his financial affairs in such an involved state

that it was impossible to satisfy his creditors and carry out the aims

of his trust. Much negotiation and argument ensued but the town council

finally agreed to buy the entire block of buildings, complete with the

three saloons and the collection of paintings and sculptures for


The trust was at first grudgingly and inefficiently administered, the

name McLellan dropped in favour of Corporation Galleries of Art for

nearly half a century; but the upper floors were reconstructed to turn

them into public use: dances and suchlike.

Meanwhile, several valuable bequests and donations of pictures were

made by public-spirited Glasgwegians so that, by 1877, the corporation

found that it was in possession of some extremely valuable works of art

and it began to take a livelier interest. The dances were thus stopped

and art exhibitions took their place -- to the delight of the public --

until the purpose-built art gallery was built at Kelvingrove in 1901.

Although the fire of 1986 left the galleries largely unscathed, it

seemed an opportune moment for the council to review their future and

Glasgow's role as cultural capital of Europe undoubtedly provided an

impetus for the transformation of the McLellan.

The refurbishment of this grade A listed building with its beautifully

proportioned classical rooms has been an exercise in conservation as

well as modernisation, and decor is light and airy with plain white

walls and bleached woodwork.

Eminently suitable for the display of modern art, the space is

versatile and particularly adaptable for temporary exhibitions. Glasgow

City Council department of architecture director Christopher Purslow and

project architect John Grierson were responsible for the plans, with

Melville Dundas and Whitson (part of Lilley plc) as main contractors.