ONE of Scotland's most acclaimed galleries– which was at the centre of international uproar when it appeared in danger of closure – has secured its future after it emerged it will now stage two shows a year.

However Simon Milne, Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh (RBGE), which runs Inverleith House, has revealed future shows at the venue may not be the "cutting edge contemporary" exhibitions with which it made its reputation.

Last year the RGBE decided to close the gallery as a place dedicated to contemporary art after 30 years, leading to outrage in the arts world and petition calling for the decision to be reversed signed by more than 10,000 people.

The petition, signed by luminaries including Ewan McGregor and Val Kilmer, called for the "securing the long-term future of Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery."

Now, after a report from high profile members of the art world said Inverleith House should continue as a place for a "rich and engaging art programme", Mr Milne said he hopes the house will stage two exhibitions a year.

The RGBE is to shortly appoint a chairperson to lead a new Arts Advisor Committee which will advise the gardens on the display of art in the future.

Mr Milne said he wanted the future arts programme to be "of high quality... and the emphasis should be on quality, not quantity."

He said: "I think the aspiration is two exhibitions, we could have a spring show and then another during the Festival period, and that could be interspersed with other events which raise money in-between.

"The nature of those shows is yet to be determined.

"We are still looking at having a contemporary element, but I am not saying they will all be cutting edge contemporary shows."

Mr Milne bristled when it was suggested the RBGE had been forced to change its plans after seemingly closing the venue in October 2016.

An 18 October, 2016, RBGE statement said: "Inverleith House will no longer be dedicated to the display of contemporary art, and RBGE is looking at options for the alternative use of the building."

However, Mr Milne said: "I don't think there has been a change of mind.

"I feel a bit annoyed that its been reported that Inverleith House was closing, there was never any intention to close Inverleith House to exhibitions.

"That's how its been reported. We never said that.

"We said Inverleith House would remain for exhibitions and events, but not be dedicated to contemporary art. 'Inverleith House saved?' Actually it's a nonsense because it was never going to be closed. I think we have been mis-represented there."

The new arts advisory body will likely be appointed before Christmas and, he said, will not be 'in the governance chain' but will advice Mr Milne, senior staff and the Trustees on future programmes.

He said the group would be a "think tank" and added: "It is here to give us ideas and to challenge us a bit, which is great, and to look right across the arts as well, the various disciplines allied to our core mission."

The RBGE aim is to have a exhibition to coincide with the festival and an exhibition in Spring 2018.

The Arts Working Group report in June suggested several routes for art in the RGBE, including seasonal shows, artists residencies, new commissions, sponsorship deals and touring shows.

Mr Milne added: "These ideas will be looked at, but I can't say they are being looked at in detail at the moment, but they will be.

"But the important thing for me is to look at arts in the gardens as a whole.

"Inverleith House will remain a venue for exhibitions and events, but there are other locations and venues in the gardens too, so this is not just about Inverleith House, it is about art in the gardens and I think that is very important.

"We shouldn't really be separating Inverleith House from the rest of the garden.

"Some of those exhibitions in the house may be contemporary art in the fullest sense, it may be botanical art, it may be performing art."


Has Inverleith House in Edinburgh been ‘saved’?

The answer is, as is often the case in this world: yes, and no. Its fate certainly seems have been carefully adjusted. It looked, in October of last year, that its days as an art gallery were numbered.

Its doors were literally closed after the meaningfully-titled I Still Believe in Miracles show. And a Botanic Gardens (RBGE) statement clearly stated: “Inverleith House will no longer be dedicated to the display of contemporary art, and RBGE is looking at options for the alternative use of the building.”

It all appeared very sudden, and there had been no consultation with the arts world. Its sudden change in circumstance was somewhat of a bombshell in the cultural world.

There were protests, an expertly organised petition, an open letter from major artistic figures which read like a Who’s Who of the art world (including Martin Boyce, Douglas Gordon, Anish Kapoor, Richard Wright, Tracey Emin, Jim Lambie, Ed Ruscha, Victoria Miro and Richard Armstrong) and, eventually, the Scottish Government got involved, leading to the establishment of a high-powered working group.

The petition asked that this “beautiful building remains open to the public as an arts space and gallery, for the foreseeable future.” Now, following the published report of the working group (whose report included both a wealth of good ideas and some carefully worded criticism of the RBGE), the House will remain a venue for exhibitions.

But it will be, it seems, quite different from the Inverleith House of the last 30 years. There will be shows, but not necessarily contemporary art, and not necessarily visual art, and exhibitions will be interspersed with events that are designed to make money.

Perhaps the art world will be relieved the House is not being, as was once rumoured, transformed into a boutique hotel, convention centre or artisanal cafe. But whether it will return to being a key site for the display of contemporary art? That remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see the make up of a new arts advisory group, and how much notice is taken of their input to the workings of the RBGE.