Edinburgh Art Festival 2019 – some of the highlights

Edinburgh Art Festival has announced some of the highlights coming up in this its 16th edition. It runs from 25 July to 25 August at a variety of venues from the Dovecot to Jupiter Artland.

New venues this year will include the recently opened Collective and Edinburgh Printmakers which opens at the end of April.

There will be exhibitions of work by established artists along with work by those just starting out on their career. There is always so much to see that they provide their own map and guide each year. You will be able to get that from their new premises at the French Institute on George IV Bridge.

The beauty of the EAF is that you can devour this in small bite-sized chunks, visiting the galleries or exhibition spaces at random. The festival includes the best of art in all its many forms.

Sorcha Carey, Director of Edinburgh Art Festival, said: “We are delighted to be offering a first glimpse of our 2019 programme today. Bringing together national institutions alongside leading contemporary art spaces, commercial art galleries and artist-run initiatives, our Festival is born out of the rich reservoir of knowledge, expertise and passion for the visual arts that characterises our city all year round.”

“Our 16th edition continues to demonstrate the strength and vitality of visual arts in Edinburgh, with two important new spaces presenting their first Festival exhibitions, major survey shows, a host of new commissions by Scottish and international artists, and the best emerging talent. As ever, the breadth and range of the programme opens up space for surprising connections across time, art form and the city of Edinburgh itself.”

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “We are proud to be home to one of the biggest celebrations of visual arts in the UK and once again the Festival looks set to deliver an exciting and diverse programme this year. Artists from all over Scotland and the world are invited to showcase their work in Edinburgh’s art galleries and unusual exhibition spaces.  

“Many of the presentations for 2019 will have a nature and environment theme running throughout which will be fascinating and it is wonderful to see such a strong programme of emerging talent alongside work from acclaimed and established artists. The Council has championed the Edinburgh Art Festival since it was established and is delighted to continue its support of this innovative and creative event this summer.”

Sir John Leighton, Director-General, National Galleries Scotland said: “The National Galleries of Scotland is proud to play a central role in Britain’s only major annual festival of the visual arts, contributing to the breadth and range of the programme which characterises the Festival as a whole, with major survey shows, and leading international names appearing alongside emerging artists. Our Edinburgh Art Festival exhibitions this summer encourage us all to think more deeply about the world around us.

“For more than 60 years Bridget Riley’s remarkable work has made us examine the very way our eyes process images, while Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage will give us an insight into collage as both hobby and high art. American photographers Francesca Woodman, Diane Arbus and Robert Mapplethorpe show us the extraordinary capacity of photographs to capture life and convey meaning, while the next in our current series of contemporary art shows, NOW, will allow us to continue to explore the outstanding work being made by both Scottish and international artists today.”

Visitor viewing Edinburgh Art Festival map, 2018. Photo_ Sally Jubb Photography

Here are just some of the highlights to look forward to :


GRAYSON PERRY :Julie Cope’s Grand Tour will be Perry’s first Scottish exhibition. This will include the complete series of tapestries in what will be the final chance to see them alongside others created by Dovecot weavers.

Grayson Perry Portrait, © Katie Hyams and Living Architecture

At The Scottish Gallery

The title of Stephen Bird’s Kiln Gods at The Scottish Gallery refers to the small sculptures made by potters to act as talismans of good luck during the firing process. Bird’s work picks up on the traditional here – referencing the heroes of ceramic sculpture – but with a subject matter that is uniquely his own. This exhibition will consist of some of these works as well as plates.

At the Fine Art Society

Intimate at The Fine Art Society mounts a group exhibition of portraiture, depicting sitters with whom the artist is close. Comprising works from the early 20th century through to pieces by contemporary artists including John Byrne, Jennifer McRae, Norman McBeath, Niall McDiarmid, Ishbel Myerscough, Eduardo Paolozzi. Alongside sculptor Nicole Farhi presenting Writing Heads, a sculpted and painted a series of 25 busts of 20th century novelists and playwrights, from Françoise Sagan to Muriel Spark and Samuel Beckett. Farhi models her figures as a response to their identity and work, sculpting her feelings towards the figure as much as their recognisable qualities.

John Bellany Self Portrait

At the Scottish Gallery

The Scottish Gallery presents Ever After which reflects the ongoing dialogue in Derrick Guild’s work with art history. The title is taken from an artwork consisting of forty individual miniature works which relate to portraits by Sir Peter Lely, Sir Anthony van Dyck, Sir Henry Raeburn and Pompeo Batoni. Details and fragments which include eyes, mouth, ears, jewellery and clothing are presented within small oval frames connected by fine gold chain.

At The Open Eye Gallery

John Busby: Silent Landscape a large-scale exhibition presented by The Open Eye Gallery centring on the distinctive landscape paintings by celebrated artist John Busby with an extensive collection of Busby’s lesser known landscape paintings. The exhibition will explore the relationship between form and content; the shape, colour and compositional energy of these works expressing a much deeper level of contemplation. To coincide with Silent Landscape, John Busby Remembered sees an exhibition of invited artists who worked alongside, and who were acquainted with, Busby during his prolific career. Featuring large-scale works by artists such as Barbara Rae and John Bellany this commemorative exhibition celebrates Busby through the eyes of his contemporaries.

Edinburgh Printmakers

This promises to be a fabulous building when it opens at the end of April on the side of the canal, and it will house Deer Dancer which is an exhibit in a variety of forms by Finnish-English artist, vocalist and musician Hanna Tuulikki . There will be an audio-visual installation with new music, costumed choreography on film and visual scores. This will sit alongside a series of new prints commissioned as part of a residency for printmakers.

Hobby Stag performance prop, Deer Dancer, Hanna Tuulikki, 2019.


This is the exciting new space on top of Calton Hill which is open this year for the first time during the EAF.They will have work by a 2014 Turner Prize nominee, James Richards. Migratory Motor Complex is a six channel electro-acoustic installation exploring sound. The work will be tuned on site with Richards reacting to the acoustic setting of the City Dome and creating a cinematic and multi-sensory experience.

They will also feature work from Scottish artist Helen McCrorie with a new film centred on a child-led outdoor playgroup that meets in the grounds of a former military camp in Scotland. This site, adopted by families for imaginative play and experiential learning, also houses a bunker transformed into a data storage unit. Part of Collective’s Satellites Programme, the film celebrates innate creativity and explores our understanding of data gathering and learning as interconnected yet diverging processes.

Kate Gray, Director, Collective said: ‘This year will be Collective’s first Edinburgh Art Festival in our new home on Calton Hill and we are delighted to be bringing the whole site to life through a mixture of installation and film work from artists James Richards and Helen McCrorie. We look forward to welcoming visitors from all across the globe to Edinburgh and contributing to this shared celebration of visual art in the city.”


This is the three year series at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and will feature work by Paisley born Anya Gallaccio. A Turner Prize nominee in 2003,she is well known for spectactular installations and sculptures. She will explore themes of change, growth and decay.

NOW Anya Gallaccio, Untitled c 0801


At The Scottish National Portrait Gallery they will be celebrating 20th century photography with work by Francesca Woodman, Diane Arbus and Robert Mapplethorpe in ARTIST ROOMS: Self Evidence – Photographs by Woodman, Arbus and Mapplethorpe. 

NGS – Robert Mapplethorpe Self Portrait

At the City Art Centre

There will be a first major survey of work by Victoria Crowe with over 150 of her paintings with work from her youth to the timeless landscapes and portraits of more recent times.

New Work

Following her fabulous sculptures made from pots and pans last year, Portuguese sculptor Joana Vasconcelos will create an intricately designed pool at Jupiter Artland.

Joana Vasconcelos : Gateway PHOTO The Edinburgh Reporter

This will be set within a landscaped formal garden and accompanied by a delicate glass dome space. Shaped from over 11,500 hand-painted and glazed tiles traditionally manufactured in Vasconcelos’ native Portugal, the swathes of brightly coloured motifs span social histories and collective narratives, journeying through sacred geometries to the zodiac and beyond.

Joana Vasconcelos

Jupiter Artland has commissioned South African artist Mary Hurrell to create a new performance which will unfold in two parts – on the opening weekend of the Edinburgh Art Festival, followed by a second performance on the closing weekend which also forms part of Jupiter Rising, Jupiter Artland’s annual festival of art, music and performance. Hurrell will produce a new site-specific work for the bodies of water at Jupiter Artland. Continuing her interest in relationships between water, emotional physical states and the feminine, the twin works will explore ideas around membranes or thresholds, a space of connectivity between what is visible and invisible, still and fluid, intimate and protected.

At Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop the French artist Caroline Achaintre will make new work for their outdoor space. She is known for ceramic and metal sculpture and fabric pieces in the form of tufted rugs.

Lucy Wayman has been asked to create a new public sculpture for the cycle path close to Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, connecting Newhaven to Edinburgh City Centre. Wayman’s practice makes use of craft techniques, such as weaving, knotting and macramé, but at scale and with a dynamism that surprises. This is her first major outdoor commission and is supported by Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop’s partner Sustrans, through their ArtRoots programme.

At Arusha Gallery

Arusha Gallery presents All That the Rain Promises and More… a group show by guest curator Aimee Parrott, bringing together 17 cross generational artists including emerging artists Sean Steadman and Paloma Proudfoot (who was previously supported through the Festival’s Platform programme for early career artists) alongside established artists such as Helen Chadwick and Ithell Colquhoun. 

Looking to the fruiting body of the fungus, the mushroom, as a starting point and exploring ancient myths and folkloric legends to recent scientific discoveries, fungi have been heralded as a powerful symbol of hope, ecological connectivity and the promise of renewal, reproduction and fertility. 

The Mirror Sean Steadman

Edinburgh College of Art as part of the University of Edinburgh will also once again welcome visitors to their Masters Degree Show. A postgraduate showcase, including new work from postgraduates in a range of disciplines from Contemporary Art, Illustration, Interdisciplinary Creative Practices, Materials Practice and Art, Space & Nature and glass.

Major survey shows and retrospectives

The Edinburgh Art Festival programme includes a series of major survey shows and retrospectives featuring highly acclaimed international artists including:

At the Royal Scottish Academy, the National Galleries of Scotland present a major retrospective from one of the most distinguished and world-renowned artists working today Bridget Riley. This marks the first museum survey of Riley’s to be held in the UK for 16 years, the first of its kind in Scotland and will span over 70 years of work, placing particular emphasis on the origins of Riley’s practice and tracing pivotal moments across her acclaimed career.

Russia: Royalty & the Romanovs at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse will explore the 300-year relationship between Britain and Russia and their royal families through decorative arts, paintings, jewellery, costume, books, letters and photographs from the Royal Collection, many of which are on public display in Scotland for the first time. The exhibition showcases a huge range of works from artists such as Laurits Regner Tuxen, Carl Fabergé, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Sir Thomas Lawrence and Sir Godfrey Kneller.

Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland at the National Museum of Scotland will feature rich displays and iconic objects as the landmark exhibition uncovers how Romantic interpretations of the cultural traditions of the Scottish Highlands and islands became enduring symbols of wider Scottish identity. It will include the work of artists such as Sir Henry Raeburn, William Turner and Sir Edwin Landseer.

The National Galleries of Scotland present Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage the first survey exhibition of collage ever to take place anywhere in the world. Highlights include a three-metre-long folding collage screen, purportedly made in part by Charles Dickens; a major group of Dada and Surrealist collages, by artists such as Kurt Schwitters, Joan Miró, Hannah Höch and Max Ernst; and major post-war works by Henri Matisse, Robert Rauschenberg, and Peter Blake, including the only surviving original source photographs for Blake’s and Jann Haworth’s iconic, collaged cover for the Beatles’ album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Founded in 2004 and now in its 16th edition, Edinburgh Art Festival is the platform for the visual arts at the heart of Edinburgh’s August festivals, bringing together the capital’s leading galleries, museums and artist-run spaces in a city-wide celebration of the very best in visual art. Each year, the Festival features leading international and UK artists alongside the best emerging talent, major survey exhibitions of historic figures, and a special programme of newly commissioned artworks that respond to public and historic sites in the city. Edinburgh Art Festival is a registered charity supported by Creative Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council. For more information, please visit www.edinburghartfestival.com or follow the Festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @EdArtFest #EdArtFest.

Art Late at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh Art Festival 2018. Photo_ Sally Jubb Photography.jpg