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
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick