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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

RGI lives to see another 150 years...

This feature on august arts body, Royal Glasgow Institute for the Fine Arts (RGI) was published in The Herald on Saturday April 4.
The RGI celebrates its 150th birthday this year. If I was organising the birthday bash, I'd get a posse of celebs on board (in true 21st century meedya style) and punt it into the pubic's radar with social networking knobs on. Just a thought...

Exhibition Profile: The RGIs at the Kelly Gallery
The Kelly Gallery
Spring the Quiet Song by Neil MacPherson
118 Douglas Street, Glasgow 
0141 248 6386
From April 12-April 30
If you were describing the Scottish visual arts scene to an alien recently landed from Mars, you would do well to start by handing over a list of the 50 artists who are currently branded with the RGI kite mark.
The honorary award of RGI is given by the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts (RGI)
for ‘artistic merit’ and ‘dedication’ to this independent arts organisation, which was first established on May 29, 1861 by a group of Glasgow businessmen.
Artists on the current roll-call include; Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, John Byrne, George Devlin, Barbara Rae, Philip Reeves, Willie Rodger, Glen Scouller, Helen Wilson and George Wyllie, to name but a few.
If your visiting alien is of a mind to see how they all fit together, all 50 RGIs have been asked to contribute to a selling exhibition previewing today in Glasgow’s Kelly Gallery,
which has been owned and operated by the Institute since it was gifted in 1965. The show marks the beginning of a series of events which will celebrate the Institute’s 150th year.
According to the Kelly Gallery’s dynamic new full-time curator, Lynne McKenzie, this exhibition will have more than a hint of last-minute nerves about it as the final day for work to be handed in was yesterday (Friday 8).
“We put a call out to all the RGIs to hand in work from Tuesday 5 to Friday 8 April,” she says. “I’ll be doing the catalogue at the last-minute.
“We have asked for smallish works. So this could mean that the work will be reasonably priced. It’s good to have an exhibition featuring such high-profile artists. When you read through the list of RGIs, it really is quite a line up.”
The most recently elected RGI, Caithness-based Neil MacPherson, has submitted two paintings, one of which is Spring The Quiet Song, inspired by a Highland folk saying that if Spring comes in like a quiet girl singing, the rest of the year will be lovely.
The oil painting shows Spring as a young girl gently blowing through the  sky bringing thoughts of renewal, growth and love with her.
“The RGI has always been important to me,” says MacPherson, who studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1974 to 1978. “The first contemporary art exhibition I ever visited was its annual show which was then held at the McLellan Galleries. The visit was organised by my art teacher and I think I was the only one who wanted to go along.
“I remember going along and thinking, ‘wow!’ – I couldn’t believe all this work was going on in Glasgow. Back then, I didn’t imagine for a minute I’d be exhibiting work at an annual show, let alone become an RGI.”
The RGI’s 150th year provides an ideal platform for the organisation to talk itself up in a modern context. Founded at a time when Glasgow was a thriving city in the international commercial scene, it was always intended to be a vehicle for contemporary painters and sculptors to exhibit their work.
An instant hit with both art-buying public and art-loving public, its first annual exhibition at the McLellan Galleries attracted a huge number of submissions and over 39,000 visitors, many on so-called Working Men’s Tickets.
The next year,
45,327 people flooded through the doors and in its third year, 53,000 visitors were received. Figures rose steadily for 20 years and it became a tradition that members of the public would hang around Central Station to greet trains carrying artists so that they could catch a first glimpse of the work headed for the annual exhibition at the McLellan Galleries.
It may have experienced ups and downs in its history, but the RGI has remained a pillar of the contemporary Scottish art scene. In its day, it brought the work of huge names in European art to Glasgow. From Renoir, to
Sargent, Whistler and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, as well as The Glasgow Boys and The Colourists. Without its considerable input, the artistic landscape would be a very different place.
The RGI continues to host its major annual exhibition at the Mitchell Library every autumn, offering cash and in-kind awards to selected artists, including several expressly aimed at young painters and sculptors, or first time exhibitors.
As this new exhibition – and the many scheduled throughout the year at the Kelly prove – it is as relevant today as it was in the beginning.

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