History of Dundee’s public art showcased in exhibition

A new exhibition at the University of Dundee will explore the role that culture has played in the city’s regeneration over the past four decades.

‘Art for All: The Pioneering Story of Public Art in Dundee’, which opens at the Lamb Gallery in Tower Building on Friday 2 August, showcases some of the 500 sculptures, murals, paintings and other pieces of public art to be found across the city.

Over the past year, the University’s Museum Services have been leading a major project to research, catalogue and promote Dundee’s public art. This exhibition showcases photographs of artworks past and present as well as unique behind-the-scenes material such as models, design sketches and installation images.

In particular, the exhibition explores the pioneering history of the Blackness Public Art Programme, which was launched in 1981 and attracted international attention for its ground-breaking approach. This programme marked the beginning of the local council’s investment in culture-led regeneration, which has continued to this day.

The success of the Blackness programme led to the expansion of the scheme to become the Dundee Public Art Programme. This was the first city-wide programme of public art in the country and would remain the largest programme in Scotland throughout its existence.

Matthew Jarron, Curator of Museum Services, said, “The V&A Dundee building is just the latest example of culture being used as an economic tool to regenerate the city – this is actually something that Dundee has led the way in for almost 40 years.

“Before the Blackness programme there were only a few pieces of public art in Dundee, with the most notable examples being Victorian sculptures. The three-year programme was part of a wider scheme to improve the Blackness area and became the catalyst for the cultural change that is still ongoing in Dundee today.

“Blackness was seen as radical as it was the first time that artists worked in collaboration with businesses, developers, council planners and architects to bring the area to life. The city-wide programme lasted for 20 years and was the largest one in Scotland for the whole time it was running.”

The Public Art Dundee project has been led by the University of Dundee with support from Dundee City Council, the Menzieshill Photography Group, Art UK and Historic Environment Scotland. A series of tours, talks and workshops will take place across the city as part of the celebration of public art in Dundee.

‘Art for All: The Pioneering Story of Public Art in Dundee’ opens at the Lamb Gallery, Tower Building on Friday 2 August. The exhibition is open from 9.30am-7pm on weekdays and from 1-5pm on Saturdays.

More information is available at https://www.dundee.ac.uk/museum/exhibitions/publicart/.