Thursday, 14 February 2008

Turner winner's Edinburgh inspiration

The Times, 14 February 2008

A initiative to supply the “missing link” in Edinburgh’s contemporary art scene by encouraging leading artists to live and work in the city will claim a striking success this weekend when Mark Wallinger, the 2007 Turner Prize begins a month-long residency in a luxurious West End flat.

Wallinger, whose body of work for the Turner included a video of himself dressed in a bear suit, will be joined by his partner, the sculptor Anna Barriball, in a Georgian apartment which is owned by Charles Asprey, of the London jewelry firm. Both artists will seek to draw inspiration from its dramatic setting on Randolph Cliff, and will share their experiences with final year and postgraduate students at Edinburgh College of Art.

The initiative, which was pioneered by Clementine Deliss of ECA’s Future Academy, draws on the active support of the National Galleries of Scotland but is fuelled by Mr Asprey’s love of Edinburgh, his commitment to art in the city – and above all his philanthropic outlook.

“We hope to put Edinburgh on the map. It’s far from a backwater in the art world, it is an extraordinary place with enlightened people just as it has always been,” said Mr Asprey.

Like generations of his family, Mr Asprey, 36, was groomed to work in the jewelry business, which has been a fixture in London’s West End since the 18th century. However, the company was sold in 1995 to Prince Jefri Bolkiah, a younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei, for £243m and Mr Asprey decided to follow his passion. He has been a collector, promoter and patron of the arts ever since, and over that time has been a regular visitor to Scotland, where he said he was “putting down roots”.

“Edinburgh has a broader spectrum of art than Glasgow, from magnificent Renaissance painting to contemporary work, the full spectrum of Western art. But there was a missing link, Edinburgh was off the radar as far as working artists were concerned,” said Mr Asprey.

He was approached by Dr Deliss who suggested that contemporary artists might be offered residencies if there was appropriate accommodation. Mr Asprey bought his property in May last year, and threw it open to artists five months later.
The flat enjoys magnificent views over the New Town skyline to the Firth of Forth and beyond to the Lomond hills in Fife.

Mr Asprey acknowledged that the project followed in the footsteps of the Edinburgh “legend” Richard Demarco, the promoter and artist whose “strategy: get arts” initiative in 1970 brought Joseph Beuys, Blinky Palermo and a succession of leading contemporary artists to the city in a blaze of publicity and excitement.

“We are building on the Demarco concept and perfecting it for a new generation. It is important to bring artists to a place they would not normally go. It offers them a chance to enjoy relative downtime and gives them the space to think. Students have the chance to meet the most up-and-coming artists out there. It is a win-win situation."

The Austrian artist Franz Graf was the first to take up the Randolph Cliff residency four months ago. His work included a show at the Sleeper gallery and a wall drawing workshop and exhibit at the National Galleries of Scotland. In November, Christian Flamm collaborated with ECA students on wall paper design and in a publication.

Future residencies include Nora Schultz from Berlin and the Japanese-American artist Ei Arakawa, as part of a much anticipated collaboration with the Palais de Tokyo in Paris; Frances Stark, artist and tutor at Art Center Pasadena; the Americans Stuart Bailey and Sean Snyder; and Olga Bryukhovetska, professor of cultural studies at Kiev University.

“We’re tremendously excited to invite such cutting edge international artists to Randolph Cliff. As well as the obvious benefits these residencies bring to students and the general public through collaborations and talks, the project also encourages artists to conduct research and develop new ideas.” said Dr Deliss.

Pictures show State Britain by Mark Wallinger, and Richard Demarco (left) sharing an Edinburgh moment with Joseph Beuys.

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