Inverleith House’s latest exhibition I Still Believe in Miracles is a celebration of the gallery’s last thirty years, combining art and botany in a diverse array of contemporary sculpture and paintings, and botanic illustrations from the Inverleith archive. This close relationship between art and nature is celebrated in the heart of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens, where contemporary works such as Louise Bourgeois’ pink marble sculpture Topiary explore themes of nature through abstraction. Cerith Wyn Evans’ Dear Lucifer similarly reflects the environment surrounding the gallery, and the gallery itself, with three mirrored plinths that stand at angles, cutting the room into fragmented images. Balancing on top of the plinths are an orchid and cactus selected by Evans from the Royal Botanic Garden.
The gallery’s history of exemplary art is reflected in household names Andy Warhol, Robert Ryman, Roni Horn, Cy Twombly, and Ed Ruscha, amongst many others. It is an honour to interact with the work of these accomplished artists in such an intimate setting.
Many have been created especially for the exhibition, including Robert Ryman’s piece Untitled (Inverleith) 2006, typically minimalist and placed alongside similarly palliative works. Set into the doorway of this room, small enough to easily go unnoticed, is the inscription ‘I still believe in miracles’. The title of the exhibition has been taken from this piece of Douglas Gordon’s work, which has been a permanent feature of the gallery since his 2005 exhibition EVERGREEN. In light of the recent moves to shut down Inverleith House, the title has acquired a new poignancy.
Above all, the art at Inverleith has been curated with genuine love and authenticity. Director Paul Nesbit’s close relationship with the artists is obvious, as is his care in curating and promoting the huge variety of work under Inverleith’s leafy roof. Despite the difficulties ahead as this exhibition draws to a close, in Nesbit’s words, ‘I still believe in the gallery’.
The announced closure has not gone unnoticed. Inverleith House has been an institution for artists, tourists and the general public for decades. In protest, or perhaps commemoration, there is a mass visit planned for Sunday October 23rd, the last day of the exhibition and potentially the last day of the Inverleith gallery itself. The Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN), who are responsible for organising this mass visit, are fighting against the closure of this ‘internationally respected gallery and important public space.’ Seonaid Daly, a representative for SCAN, told The Student: ‘an organisation in receipt of public funds should surely feel a responsibility to consult with their public before such drastic change. It’s clear from their statements that Creative Scotland were continuing to support Inverleith’s programming to some degree. A much clearer rationale for the decision should be offered.’
In addition to the visit, a petition has been started in defence of the gallery. It amassed 3,500 signatures on the first day alone, and has already surpassed its target of 5,000 signatures. The campaign, started by Joyce McMilan on 38degrees.org.uk asks the City Council, Visit Scotland and the board of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh to ‘come together, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that this beautiful building remains open to the public as an arts space and gallery, for the foreseeable future.’
While the public reaction shows undisputable support for the gallery, the Royal Botanical Gardens seems unable to provide more funding. Although hopefully not a last hurrah, I Still Believe in Miracles is, if anything, a starting reminder of why galleries like Inverleith need more support on a national level.