Inverleith House is to reopen four years after its owners, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, closed the contemporary art space. The gallery is to be renamed Climate House and will, in part, be programmed in partnership with the Serpentine Galleries.
As well as an immersive installation by Australian artist Keg de Souza this year and a solo exhibition by Christine Borland in 2021, both commissioned by the botanic garden’s head of creative programmes, Emma Nicolson, the London institution has been invited to extend its ‘Back to Earth’ initiative to the Scottish space, showing work by Cooking Sections, James Bridle, Kapwani Kiwanga, Fernando Garcia-Dory, Tabita Rezaire and Ayesha Tan-Jones.
Given its pioneering history under previous curator Paul Nesbitt, there was outcry at the 2016 decision by the botanic garden’s management. Over 10,000 people signed a petition to save the space, and an open letter authored by the likes of Phyllida Barlow, Toby Webster, Jeremy Deller, Cindy Sherman, Isaac Julien and Anish Kapoor expressed ‘dismay’. In a statement made at the time, the botanic garden said, ‘RBGE is looking at options for the alternative use of the building’. Today’s announcement may go some way to appeasing the most vocal critics.
The new three-year venture is being funded through a £150,000 grant made by Outset, a contemporary art fund financed by individuals, which will also facilitate the foundation of a new network of art and science organisations, the General Ecology Network, ‘with a view to working together to face the Climate Crisis challenge’, bringing ‘together multidisciplinary expertise in the worlds of art and science to further our understanding and exploration of the planet’.
In a statement Lucia Pietroiusti, the Serpentine Galleries’ curator of ecology, said, ‘The difference between pointing at an urgency and finding agency to respond to that urgency is vast, and often goes unnoticed. Our work seeks transformative, artist-led interventions that contribute to shaping a more ecologically-minded future. The collaboration with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a key pillar in this endeavour. Together, we bring scientific and artistic imagination, as well as fieldwork and strategy, to the environmental effort, supporting the work of artists who are innovators in the field.’