State of the Art Nation: To Dundee and beyond

Feature by Ben Robinson | 04 Jan 2010

Away from the clamour of other, bigger, metropolitan art sites, Dundee is proving more than capable of holding its own. A thriving, close-knit scene of artists and creative types is located on the banks of the river Tay, and in recent times art school graduates have been sticking around the city in increasing numbers. There’s ample reason to stay: cheap rents; excellent facilities at the Duncan of Jordanstone College; the bustling WASPS studios at Meadow Mill; and a superb artist-run space at Generator Projects.

Says Generator chair Lauren Gault, “The art scene in Dundee is small and supportive, and is the perfect environment for a new graduate or budding curator. Dundee can provide all the experience and support necessary to foster a career within the arts which may be harder to achieve in a bigger city, particularly at an early stage in your career… we allow Dundee-based artists to work and engage with other national and international artists and have a vibrancy and dynamism that is perhaps harder to foster within a commercial environment.” Future shows will include Bedwyr Williams, Derek Sutherland and James Alexander Craig, incorporating visual art, writing and architecture.

Elsewhere in the city, most weekends will see openings take place and the college hosts a fair few at its galleries run by the exhibitions department. Curator Laura Simpson says: “The programme reflects the interests, practice and research of staff and students and aims to contextualise Scottish practice within the international scene. We provide a social and critical hub for the college and wider community. Our curatorial approach has been to make connections between artists and practices.” These spaces, combined with the A-list attractions of Dundee Contemporary Arts and the imminent reopening of the McManus Galleries, all help provide a busy social calendar for arts events.

A number of independent ventures have also begun to spring up around Dundee making connections with other cities. The art zine Yuck ‘n Yum publishes a quarterly issue with its own website, and has recently organised events for festivals in Cupar and Inverness. All these Dundee-based ventures share a willingness to engage with artists and audiences beyond the city’s boundaries, both nationally and internationally. For Gault this is key to Dundee’s success: “Although it is frustrating that there isn't the volume of galleries or artist led-initiatives directly on your doorstep, like in Glasgow, this means that there is a greater tendency to go further afield to see shows rather than stay within your own city where art scenes can seem quite contained and insular. Dundee's art scene is not contained within Dundee.”