Today, the first of (hopefully) many touristy posts celebrates the rather well-hidden Glasgow Lighthouse and The Gallery of Modern Art. Both venues had just a couple of exhibitions open, as more would be opening up for the summer months, but really the buildings themselves are a large part of the appeal and provide reason to visit on their own merit. As someone who somehow regularly gets lost on the way to the local supermarket (seriously) I wandered around a little before finding the entrance, but my lacking sense of direction was well rewarded with a cool bit of street art discovered en route nearby (please don’t ask where, though).
The first stop at the Lighthouse was the lift to the viewing platform. At seven stories, the building is not the tallest but I think that makes the view a whole lot more interesting. Being in amongst the chimney pots adds an unusual dimension to the view which is impressive.
I then headed to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibition on the fourth floor. Anyone who knows Glasgow just a little will have heard of Rennie Mackintosh, to whom the city owes numerous buildings (he designed everything from the School of Art to the tearooms on Sauchiehall Street, and of course the Lighthouse) and left, in particular, a fascinating legacy of furniture design amongst many others. The exhibition was interesting and interactive, I was slightly distracted by the amazing spiral staircase next door to the exhibition room but nonetheless I like to think I learned something.
Next, it was time to fight my way through the shoppers on Buchanan Street, making special effort not to look in any shop windows and get lured inside, and head to the romantically named Merchant City. The Gallery of Modern Art is a neoclassical building, again quite nice to look at but it is generally overlooked due to the comical genius of the statue of the Duke of Wellington which stands to attention outside. In the past, people have tried to remove his traffic cone hat but he always gets it back, and it is such a well established joke that it even warrants its own range of greeting cards featuring the duke and his cone hat wishing people a happy birthday in Scots and whatnot.
Once you get inside, there are a few floors of galleries including one currently dedicated to Glaswegian author and artist Alasdair Gray. If you’ve never heard of him then I recommend you get yourself a copy of Poor Things as soon as you can. A graduate of Glasgow School of Art, his murals can be found in various spots around the city (my favourite is in Hillhead subway station) and the man himself has been known to frequent the pubs in the West End. Speaking of, his former partner Bethsy Gray owns a silver jewellery business based just off Byre’s Road, and having bought a couple of pieces I can confirm that the jewellery is as fabulous as her stories are (last time I was in she was talking about Glasgow in the seventies and it sounded like an absolute riot). Anyway, back to the gallery. One thing that caught my attention was the fact that, considering this building dates from the 1800’s and was certainly never intended to be a gallery, the light in here is lovely. I wandered some more exhibitions and I have to admit, one of my favourite parts is seeing the drawings in the kids corner.
The official artworks have commentaries by students from the School of Art which is quite a nice touch as I am happy to admit that I find modern art a conundrum to say the least. Overall, both exhibitions seemed well laid out, informative and interesting and I look forward to going back and investigating the new pieces on display in the next few months.
Feeling inspired? Both of the venues from today’s post are FREE to visit (but it doesn’t hurt to donate, of course) so if you’re a local and you’ve never been, or just haven’t been in a while, you’ve got nothing to lose by going on a little adventure. For everybody else, the Lighthouse, the Duke of Wellington and his cone are anxiously awaiting your visit. What will you find there next?