Eight years after the fire which badly damaged the iconic Mackintosh Building at Glasgow School of Art, and four years on from the nearly completed restoration also going up in flames, the “weird stasis” surrounding the re-build project is a “national scandal” according to one eminent art critic.

Painter, broadcaster and author Lachlan Goudie believes the loss of the building is “a tragedy for many people who don’t even realise it”, that its creator was a “global genius” to be compared with Frank Lloyd Wright and Antoni Gaudi, and that restoring the building to its former glory should become a “communal enterprise” for Glasgow and Scotland.

“The powers that be as regards Glasgow School of Art have come in for a great deal of criticism and they deserve it,” he said ahead of the opening of an exhibition of his new work in Edinburgh. “But more widely, on a governmental level, I simply cannot understand why so many figures are shying away from this important story. If that building had burned down in London or Edinburgh we would not hear the end of it. But it happens to have burned down in Glasgow and it’s a side story to our national narrative at the moment. It shouldn’t be. It should be front and centre.”

The world-famous Mackintosh Building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and completed in 1909, was first damaged when a fire broke out in the West Wing on May 23, 2014. Restoration work was nearing completion when a second fire on June 15, 2018 caused more significant damage.


For Mr Goudie, the imperative is to re-build in the most authentic manner possible and in that regard money should be no object given the larger issues at stake.

“We’re all very familiar with the economic crisis we’re all facing,” he said. “[But] the Glasgow School of Art was an absolute icon of Glasgow’s identity, its heritage, its place on the global map as the home of a bona fide architectural masterpiece. That icon would have safeguarded Glasgow’s prominence in an international sense of what Scotland is for generations. And when it’s not there ,what you lose is not just the building. What you lose is a part of the soul of the city and all the economic potential of that city to generate a sense of its purpose.”

Mr Goudie also revealed he was one of six artists chosen to commemorate the lying-in-state of the late Queen Elizabeth in September. The late monarch had once sat for his father, noted Scottish portrait painter Alexander Goudie.

Positioned discretely in Westminster Hall, he sketched the crowds as they filed past the catafalque and was present when the king and his siblings stood vigil by their mother’s coffin.

“I was put in the corner so I wouldn’t be in the way and was an eye witness. It was extraordinarily insightful of them to understand that these moments of national significance require more than a photographer. Artists and painters can view these events with a different eye.”

He also drew in the House of Lords at the ceremony at which peers swore allegiance to the king. Goudie’s sketches of both events will be “reviewed”, as he puts it, and either works commissioned or the drawings placed in the royal archives.