The Glasgow Art Club, which for generations has been a meeting place for artists, cultured business leaders and academics, is to become officially a publicly accessible space for the first time since it was established in 1867.

The move, which will see the doors open to the public from 10am to 5pm on weekdays and also on Saturday mornings, will encourage more people to enter what is still a private members’ club, albeit one with a extensive gallery and, when it is reno-vated, an important early mural by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

The club is changing as it attempts to renovate and modernise its home on Bath Street, and its management wants to expand its process of “renewal”. When the new accessibility will be instituted has not yet been revealed, but is likely to be in the coming year.

The club has already raised more than £600,000 of a required £1.5 million so that it can redevelop its premises, and, in particular, restore the currently unseen mural design by Mackintosh.

Experts believe the celebrated architect designed the club’s large gallery space when he was young and unknown. The green design originally decorated two walls of the gallery.

The work is likely to begin in 2011, but in the meantime the club is to spend around £50,000 converting its billiard room into a function suite and planning for the club to become more “public facing” in the future.

The move towards increased public access is partly motivated by an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has given an initial “green light” for funds to restore the mural.

Raymond Williamson, the new president of the club, said: “The Art Club is aware of the importance of the building at 185 Bath Street and the significance of it being Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s first interior design.

“So we would like to encourage more people to come and visit the building. Its regular exhibitions are already open to the public and once the proposed restoration works are completed access will be available Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm and on Saturday mornings.

Talks and guided tours can be arranged by appointment.”

The club is also making efforts to become more available to the nearby Glasgow School of Art, sharing its large archives with the GSA.

Mr Williamson said: “It’s important that students and others at the school of art can come and see us and see what we do here. It is a great way to integrate people back into the club. We have given Seona Reid, director of the GSA, an honorary membership and we want to make it clear with we are an ‘arts’ club, not just an art club, we are open to all kinds of artists, not just painters.”

The club, now a registered charity, has long been a favourite haunt of the artistic and those involved in the business of the arts -- its former and current members include Sir John Lavery, Sir James Guthrie, Peter Howson, Billy Connolly and Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden.

Its premises on Bath Street are Grade A listed, and initial work has already been completed to make the aged building wind and watertight.

Glasgow Art Club was founded in 1867 by William Dennistoun and 10 other amateur artists. They launched the club in the Waverley Temperance Hotel in Buchanan Street.

Membership grew in the 1870s, professional artists began to join and exhibitions began to be held -- a tradition that continues to this day.

In 1875, the club moved to a Sauchiehall Street hotel, also called Waverley. Later it moved to the Royal Hotel in George Square and in 1878 it moved again, to 62 Bothwell Circus.

The constant need for funds led to a crucial change -- the admission of “lay” members by the mid-1880s.

To accommodate all the newcomers, two adjacent town houses were bought in Bath Street. Women, however, had to wait until 1983 before they could be admitted.


Site of Heritage


Glasgow Art Club was founded in 1867 by William Dennistoun and 10 other amateur artists.


Its current base is in two mid-19th century town houses at 187 and 191 Bath Street. In 1893, the two adjacent properties were merged to form the club as it stands today. Today, Glasgow Art Club is popular as a venue for functions such as weddings.


Well-known patrons include Billy Connolly, conductor James Loughran and Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden.


The admission of “lay” members began in the mid-1880s. Women were allowed to join in 1983.


Architect John Keppie was put in charge of the conversion of its buildings and one of his colleagues, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, played a key role in the designs.


There are various categories of membership, including £460 for a year at “Town Lay” status, £414 for an artist, or £172.50 if an artist is under the age of 35.