From world-renowned arts institutions to international festivals, from major art-spaces to a number of independent, artist-run galleries, there’s plenty for contemporary art lovers to discover on a trip to Glasgow.
Alongside the likes of New York and Berlin, Glasgow is very much at the forefront of the contemporary art world. The city's prominence in this field is just one of the reasons why Glasgow was named the UK’s top cultural and creative city by the European Commission in 2019.
No fewer than seven Turner prize winners and eleven nominees have either been born, trained or worked out of the city in recent years and independent, artist-run galleries like Transmission and Mary Mary and the ‘culturepreneurs’ at the Modern Institute all punch well above their weight in helping to put Glasgow on the world art map.
Here’s the low down on just a few of the city’s contemporary art highlights.
On Sauchiehall Street, in a building designed by world-famous Victorian architect Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) is yet another popular creative hub. The venue’s year-round programme includes cutting-edge exhibitions, film, music, literature, spoken word, festivals and performance. At the heart of all activities is the desire to work with artists, commission new projects and present them to the widest possible audience.
You’ll also find a great gift shop focused on making design and craft accessible to all, and the Saramago Café Bar, a relaxed eatery and bar offering a vegan menu.
Over recent years a number of creative hubs have sprung up across the city to support Glasgow’s ever-growing artistic community, allowing a whole range of artists and designers to support each other and share innovative exhibition and work spaces.
One such space is Trongate 103 which is located in Glasgow's cultural quarter, the Merchant City. The purpose-built venue houses an eclectic mix of Glasgow institutions including Transmission Gallery, the Glasgow Print Studio, Street Level Photoworks and Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre.
As a former tram depot, Tramway, which can be found on the Southside of the city, was turned into Scotland’s internationally acclaimed venue for contemporary visual and performing art as part of Glasgow’s year as City of Culture 1990.
Tramway is an international art-space which commissions, produces and presents contemporary arts projects with many artists going on to international acclaim after a Tramway commission, including the likes of Douglas Gordon, Christine Borland and Henry Coombes. The venue’s prestigious reputation resulted in it being chosen as the host venue for the 2015 Turner Prize. Tramway is also home to the Hidden Gardens, a sanctuary garden that celebrates the diversity of nature and humanity, as well as a café bar.
"An industrial cathedral that connects art with humanity..It's real, it speaks of the city's history, it speaks of Glasgow"
Peter Brook, Theatre Director
A striking neo-classical building situated in the heart of the city centre which was once used as a centre for business and commercial exchange is home to Scotland’s most visited contemporary art gallery – the Gallery of Modern Art. Its unique architecture offers many different spaces through which to explore art collected by the city, works on loan and the results of collaborative projects between communities and artists which highlight the interests, influences and working methods artists from around the world share with those from Glasgow.
Other important creative hubs in the city include, The Briggait, The Whisky Bond, South Block, SWG3, WASPS and The Glue Factory, with each one playing its part in reinforcing the city’s position as a centre for cutting-edge art and creativity.
Glasgow is home to undeniable creativity, but how has one city managed to produce a generation of international contemporary artists? One reason is the world-renowned Glasgow School of Art, which has been at the epicentre of the city’s creativity since 1845 and continues to serve as a centre of excellence for the visual creative disciplines.
Almuni of the school include David Shrigley, Martin Boyce, Peter Capaldi and Rosalind Nashashibi.
“Glasgow has become a natural centre for people to live and work as artists.”
Sarah McCrory, former director of Glasgow International
Glasgow International is a world-renowned biennial festival of contemporary art, which showcases the best of local and international art for wide-ranging audiences.
The 2018 programme included work from 268 international and local artists, 90 exhibitions and 80 events across 18 days
The next Glasgow International will take place in 2020, positioning the city as a unique major centre for the production and display of contemporary visual art.
Article last updated: November 2019