Thanks to Ray Perman for this guest blog on a bold new proposal for our part of town. And thanks to Aunty P for the picture (taken a little further afield).
I like the work of Antony Gormley. I like particularly that his rusting, steel statues – modelled on his own body, although you would not immediately guess that to look at them – often provoke critical derision when they are first installed, but soon elicit popular support. The critics come round – mainly because their bread and butter depends on it.
So I am excited that Gormley has been asked to create six figures to be partially submerged in the Water of Leith, between the Gallery of Modern Art and the docks. He is such a bankable name that the Great and Good – the National Galleries of Scotland and its well-heeled patrons, the Art Fund, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Claire Enders (whoever she might be) and The Henry Moore Foundation – had no hesitation in putting up the money.
The statutes will attract locals and tourists alike to this underused and often sadly vandalised stretch of waterway, and that can only be good.
But would these great names be as quick to put their money behind local, unknown artists? I doubt it, financial risk takers are notoriously conservative in exposing their taste and prefer to play safe and go with artists who have already made their names. Not all of the corporate elite thinks the same way.
Deutsche Bank came into Scotland only briefly, buying a company outside their usual run of business and selling a few years later when management fashion turned the other way. In the meantime they introduced us to the art buying policy of the Deutsche Collection: only local artists, and only works on paper – almost by definition the cheapest. So while in Scotland they bought mainly from local unknowns – and they have done that wherever they go.
It is an enlightened policy – but, sadly, almost unique. It supports local creativity, produces a fascinatingly diverse corporate collection and occasionally throws up an astonishing bargain. Long may it continue. What a pity few others have the courage, or taste, to follow suite.
PS talking of enlightenment – lets celebrate the Creative Commons philosophy which shares art and talent. And thanks again to Aunty P for contributing pictures for common use.