Scotland may not be considered primarily for its arts, preferring to associate itself with things like whisky, haggis and golf, but in the capital there’s plenty of opportunity to indulge your inner artist. As performing arts festival The Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes over the city throughout August, we look at the busy theatres and quiet galleries pioneering the city’s burgeoning art scene. Join us as we explore the best places to find fine and contemporary art in Edinburgh.
The Scottish Gallery is the oldest fine art dealer and gallery in Scotland, specialising in 20th century and contemporary Scottish paintings and objects. The space, located just a short walk from The Balmoral, is a prime place to pick up artworks by local Scottish artists. Exhibitions change constantly so there’s always something new to discover. There are currently five, running until 3rd September, including solo presentations by Elizabeth Blackadder, Michael Lloyd and Paul Scott, an exhibition called The Scottish Colourists featuring works by four of the country’s greatest colourists, and Out of this World, a special showcase of contemporary jewellery.
The Gallery at The Balmoral is a space to enjoy refreshments and sweet treats while basking in the glow of local artworks. The walls are adorned with pieces curated by artists from The Scottish Gallery; Edinburgh-born artist Alison McGill takes the spotlight until September with her beautiful series of atmospheric landscapes paintings that are inspired by the colours and textures of the Scottish countryside. The artworks are available for sale and make for wonderful souvenirs of a trip to Scotland.
City Art Centre houses one of the biggest and best collections of Scottish art in the city. Over six floors, the establishment presents a diverse array of exhibitions, ranging from collections by local talents to pieces by international artists inspired by Scotland. The centre also hosts a rolling programme of exhibitions built around themes such as historic and modern photography, architecture and the built environment, and contemporary art and design. Budding artists can even try their hand at their own artworks at the complimentary ArtSpace workshop.
For modern and contemporary art, head to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The complex comprises three spaces; a fantastic sculpture park set in an extensive parkland and two indoor spaces, Modern One and Modern Two. Modern One showcases works from the National Gallery’s permanent collection, alongside special loans from around the world. Visit to explore Expressionist and modern British art, contemporary 20th century French and Russian art collections, and paintings by household names such as Matisse and Picasso. Modern Two, on the other hand, presents a changing programme of exhibitions by international artists, alongside a number of permanent large-scale projects, such as The Stairwell Project by Richard Wright.
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery needs no introduction. Located in one of Edinburgh’s most striking buildings, the gallery tells the history of Scotland through portraits of the people. Tour the myriad galleries to discover famous faces such as Mary Queen of Scots, Prince Charles Edward Stuart and Robert Burns, as well as more recent influencers and pioneers in the fields of science, sports and the arts. With over 30,000 artworks to discover across permanent and temporary exhibitions, this is one for anyone who’s good with faces.
Browse art over dinner at Number One at The Balmoral, a Michelin-star restaurant, which is decorated with a print of a Scottish oak tree by Adam Ellis, alongside artwork from London’s Royal College of Art.