There are a huge variety of galleries on offer in Scotland, most of which are free, which means that any member of the public can pop in and experience the works on offer. Some of the larger galleries employ specialist art historians as curators, whilst smaller spaces could be run by teams of artists or volunteers. In general, the galleries in Scotland fall into three broad categories; commercial galleries, artist-led spaces and public galleries. Of course, there also are many more kinds of gallery that function across Scotland, from not-for-profit artist studio spaces that also display work through to smaller public galleries that are funded through sponsors and grants.
Commercial galleries are private businesses funded by the sale of art, making money for both gallery and artist. They are usually run by individuals who represent a specific group of artists and have a list of collectors. Small spaces like the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh or the Compass Gallery in Glasgow offer easily affordable artworks by emerging artists.
Larger spaces like Ingleby Gallery in Edinburgh and The Modern Institute in Glasgow exhibit and sell high end art works for a greater cost by international leading artists. Two important commercial galleries which supported both emerging and established artists in Scotland, and helped launch the careers of many, were Doggerfisher in Edinburgh and Sorcha Dallas in Glasgow. Both of these galleries were forced to close shop several years ago due to financial difficulties after the banking crisis of 2008.
Artist-led spaces provide a not-for-profit platform for grassroots creativity, focussing on experimental projects like installations or performances. They are often run by, and support work by, new graduates from art schools, allowing the interchange of creativity between curators and artists.
The curators, or ‘committee members’ who organise exhibitions in artist-led spaces work as a team, and change on a regular basis, keeping their exhibition programme fresh and open. Very little money is involved in these spaces so they rely on the dedication and passion of volunteers, as well as paying members (for a very small fee) and external funders like Creative Scotland.
Spaces include Transmission Gallery in Glasgow and Embassy Gallery in Edinburgh, Limousine Bull in Aberdeen and Generator in Dundee. Many established artists started their careers through involvement with artist-led spaces, either through organising exhibitions or exhibiting their work. These include GENERATION artists Douglas Gordon, Carol Rhodes and Laura Aldridge, who all served on Transmission Gallery’s committee and Craig Coulthard and Ruth Ewan, who were amongst the founding members of Embassy Gallery.
Public galleries are funded through grants and sponsorship, sometimes through the government or arts funding bodies such as Creative Scotland and sometimes from commercial or private donors.
Some public galleries own collections of artworks. For example the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh, Aberdeen Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow.
These institutions have work on permanent display, and also have separate spaces dedicated to a changing rota of exhibitions which can last several months. For these changing displays they frequently borrow artworks from other public galleries, or from private collectors, both on short or long term loan, allowing international works to be brought to Scotland, or they may even buy work from commercial galleries to add to their collections.
Public galleries often empoy curators who have different fields of specialism to organise and look after their exhibitions, leading to an ever changing series of displays.
Smaller public galleries, such as the CCA in Glasgow and The Fruitmarket Gallery and Collective in Edinburgh, receive funding from Creative Scotland and other sponsors to programme exhibitions and events. Others may run courses or have on-site facilities that help supplement their income, for example Glasgow Print Studio or Stills in Edinburgh.