Glasgow wins fight for 20m pounds art gallery

GLASGOW has won the latest round of hostilities with Edinburgh: the new National Gallery of Scottish Art is to be built in the city's Kelvingrove Park.

After a two-year battle, trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) said yesterday that the new gallery, which will be the first devoted to the country's art, would open in 1998.

The move means the Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh will close, although the capital's National Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art will remain open. Timothy Clifford, director of the NGS, said the promise of pounds 10m of European Union funds for development in Glasgow, coupled with the expected 800,000 visitors a year, had helped the city win 'by a short head'.

But, he added: 'Money was not the only factor. We have always been looking for a window in the West. I think the Scots have been a bit slow to wake up to the fact that a national gallery does not necessarily have to be in the capital city. The trend lately has been to decentralise, say with the Museum of Photography in Bradford, the Railway Museum in York and the Tate in Liverpool. The Glasgow site will be remarkable.'

Museum and gallery directors in Glasgow, who argued that the project was vital to secure the city's reputation as a European cultural centre, welcomed the news. Julian Spalding, director of Glasgow Museums, said: 'This ambitious undertaking will mean that the work of Scotland's greatest artists, from Adam to Mackintosh, Ramsay to Bellany, will be displayed in a fitting home.'

The battle between the east coast establishment and west coast artists to win the trustees' approval was intense. When Peter Howson, Britain's official war artist in Bosnia, offered to give a substantial work to the new gallery provided it was built in Glasgow, Ian Hamilton Finlay, a sculptor lobbying for Edinburgh, said the promise would immeasurably strengthen the capital's case.

Angus Grossart, chairman of the NGS, said that in the absence of government funding, the estimated pounds 20m needed would be raised through the private sector, the National Lottery, the Millennium Fund and donations.

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