Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021

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Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021
Since opening its doors 25 years ago, GoMA has staged over 200 exhibitions with diverse artists from all over the world, as well as collecting powerful work by local, UK and international artists and developing an award-winning learning programme for all ages, abilities and interests.

GLASGOW.- Glasgow’s GoMA, the most visited modern and contemporary art museum in Scotland, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2021.

Housed in an iconic building located in Royal Exchange Square in the heart of Glasgow, the venue opened to the public on 30 March 1996 and was formally opened by HM The Queen on 3 July 1996.

GoMA has a unique position in Glasgow as a collecting institution of contemporary art, as a civic space that is enjoyed by a broad demographic of visitors, and as a key tourist attraction for the city.

Since opening its doors 25 years ago, GoMA has staged over 200 exhibitions with diverse artists from all over the world, as well as collecting powerful work by local, UK and international artists and developing an award-winning learning programme for all ages, abilities and interests.

While the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions are in place GoMA remains closed and has had to postpone some of the exhibitions planned to take place during this milestone year, turning instead to an ongoing programme of ‘GoMA at Home’ online activities, talks and workshops over the coming months.

Upcoming, free online events include the At Home: Artist Talk – queer times school prints, with Adam Benmakhlouf in conversation with curator Katie Bruce on Wednesday 24 February; a series of social media posts celebrating the life and work of Alasdair Gray for the inaugural Gray Day on 25 February; a Saturday Art Club workshop on Saturday 27 February; Coffee with A Curator: Martin Craig on Friday 5 March; and a Mindful Art Session on Sunday 7 March.

When GoMA first opened, the public reaction was initially mixed, and a BBC documentary produced at the time – which is now shown in Gallery 2 as part of the Taste! Exhibition – highlights the polarised responses to GoMA in its early years.

However, visitors to GoMA exceeded the initial expected numbers and have continued to grow to around 550,000 – 600,000 each year. Some of the earliest collecting activities included works by Jo Spence, Bruce Lacey, Bridget Riley and Niki de Saint Phalle that are now recognised as key acquisitions for Glasgow Museums.

This year presents the museum with an opportunity to celebrate a significant moment in the museum’s youthful history, reflect on the work it has done, and strengthen its current innovative exhibition, learning, access and collecting activities.

In recent years, GoMA’s public programme has responded to and respected the history of the building, with the opening of the ‘Stones Steeped in History’ permanent display in 2018, reflecting on the history of the building and its ties to the Empire and Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Other recent exhibitions and subsequent acquisitions have included Douglas Gordon, Jacqueline Donachie, Hal Fischer, queer times school prints (commissioned from Jason E Bowman), Aaron Angell and Jack Knox.

GoMA’s commitment to collecting work by women and non-binary artists has included partnerships with Glasgow International on Cosima Von Bonin (2016), Tessa Lynch (2016) and Cellular World (2018); and collection exhibitions including Devils in the Making (2015-16), Ripples on the Pond (2015-16), Taste! (2017-ongoing), Polygraphs (2017-18), Inner City (2018), Domestic Bliss (2019-) and Fiona Tan: Disorient (2019).

In 2019 the museum launched a new programme for young people aged 16-25, the GoMA Youth Group, who presented their first exhibition, GROWTH, in 2020. The programme, which is now in its second year, ensures the voices of young people are represented at GoMA, while creating opportunity for skills development for participants.

In the same year, GoMA established COMMONSpace, a display area to highlight the work and partnerships undertaken with key organisations in the city, through a programme of community generated exhibitions.

In 2020 GoMA won the Big Draw Festival’s Museums & Galleries Award for the second time (following its first win in 2010) for its project linking drawing and wellbeing, which culminated in a vibrant display of drawings by the general public in the atrium space of the building.

Reflecting, responding to and supporting this programme has been an overlapping learning programme for schools, colleges and visitors of all ages facilitated by an experienced in-house learning team. This programme includes events, workshops, talks, tours in addition to the popular and long-running Saturday Art Club and holiday programmes for families; Creative Parents for babies and their parents; adult workshops, like the popular Mindful Art sessions, ; Orient-ation, a welcome programme for asylum seekers and refugees; autism friendly openings; handling box sessions about the history of the building .

GoMA has continued to support the visual arts sector by employing artists at all stages of their careers in this learning programme through opportunities like the associate artist programme (creating new commissions through a shared curiosity in a theme); employing freelance artists to deliver workshops; commissioning performances, events and new work; and creating opportunities for them to engage visitors in issues that they explore in their work.

The Associate Artist residency programme has also featured Rhona Warwick Paterson (2019-present), Mitch Miller and Alberta Whittle (2018 -19), Rachel Duckhouse (2014) and Rachel Mimiec (2011 -13), who have worked with GoMA to create a catalyst for new work and events responding to themes such as play, climate change and diverse audiences.

Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “The 25th anniversary of Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art in 2021 is a significant milestone that allows us to reflect on the incredible and vital contribution that GoMA has made in championing Scotland’s rich history of modern and contemporary art.

“From staging insightful exhibitions by local and international artists, to the hugely popular creative workshops such as GoMA’s Saturday Art Club, and the recent work that has been undertaken to highlight under-represented communities and provide opportunities to reflect on the venue’s historical links to Glasgow’s Slave Trade, GoMA is a place that is loved by locals and visitors to the city.

“Reflecting its position as a place where people can enrich their lives by engaging with world class art and the experiences it reflects, inspiring dynamic conversations about the world we live in today, GoMA is currently developing innovative ways to respond to the ongoing global pandemic.”

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