Award-winning Scottish artist turns his back on homeland

He is a Turner-prize winning artist who has represented Britain at the Venice Biennale and made an award-winning film capturing the athletic beauty and grace of the French footballer, Zinedine Zidane.

Celebrated as a former YBA and seminal figure on the international arts scene, one might assume that Douglas Gordon’s artworks would be revered in his Scottish homeland.

Not so, according to Gordon, who has vowed never again to accept a public commission in Scotland after a particularly unpleasant experience in which his proposed artwork was heavily criticised and he was left to cover his own expenses.

The University of Edinburgh invited the artist – whose work has been shown and bought by the National Galleries of Scotland – to create a work for its Main Library. It was due to be unveiled in the autumn this year, when the library’s redeveloped ground opened.

Instead, the artist pulled out of the project in disgust after his first proposal for the space was frowned upon for not being positive enough. Later, he was informed that he would have to cover travel and accommodation expenses to the launch of the project.

Gordon, who is represented by the powerful Gagosian Gallery, said he felt “humiliated” and that he would “never again accept a public commission in my home country”.

“I felt I was being treated like a 16-year-old apprentice and not a professional,” he added.

He took the bold step to speak out about his grievance after saying that he was not the first artist to be handled so shabbily by institutions commissioning public artworks. “Many artists are treated disrespectfully by the institutions they are making commissions for,” he said. “Most think they cannot afford to say no, but I can, so I had to.”

His initial idea was to inscribe the words, “Every time you turn a page, it dies a little” in gold letters on a wall inside the library. But several members of the advisory board took against it for being too negative when he handed in his sketches early this year.

“Several people felt that the wording was not celebratory enough for the opening of a library, even though the artist had not been briefed to create a 'positive' commission," said Andrew Patrizio, a professor at the university who sat on the advisory panel and supported Gordon’s work. “Though one could read it negatively, it is important to stress that nobody had ever asked the artist for something celebratory.”

Gordon, who was born in Glasgow but currently lives in Berlin, flew to Edinburgh to convince the panel that it was a worthwhile project, and he was apparently given the go-ahead. But after Gordon found out that he was expected to attend the opening of the library at his own expense, after re-scheduling a clashing exhibition in Tel Aviv, he wrote to the board informing them he was withdrawing from the project.

“When it turned out that not only did I have to pay for everything myself despite the small budget, but the artists were not even mentioned on the invitation (to the inauguration), it all became too much.”

The Art Newspaper, which brought the story to light, revealed that Gordon was given a budget that was less than £20,000 for the commission – not considered a great sum for a public artwork.

Gordon had graciously arranged the commission without the help of his Gagosian – who would have charged an additional fee – to help the university meet its tight budget, a move he now regrets. “That was definitely a mistake: galleries know how to deal with these situations,” he said.

An artwork by the Scottish artist, Alec Finlay, was the only work to be installed in the university’s library.

Gordon won the Turner prize in 1996 and represented Britain in the Venice Biennale the following year. In 2006, the National Galleries of Scotland launched a major solo show on the artist’s work. A version of his cinematic portrait of Zidane – a black and white film in which the camera follows just the footballer in the space of a 90-minute game and which was shown to great acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival – has also been bought by Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?