Research project

Ages of Wonder

‘Ages of Wonder: Scotland’s Art from 1540 until Today’ is a curatorial and editorial research project led by Arthur Watson.

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Status

Completed

Start date

January 2014

Completion date

November 2017

Ages of Wonder: Scotland’s Art from 1540 until Today’ is a curatorial and editorial research project led by Arthur Watson. As secretary, then president, Watson led a five-year research project within the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) to survey its collections and library. Following this, an endowment was established to address gaps in these historic holdings, while raising their profile within the museum sector. Importantly, the study set the agenda for this major exhibition charting the academy’s entwined history with the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS).

As curatorial lead, Watson in partnership with Sir John Leighton, Director General of NGS, retained responsibility for the selection, design and installation of the exhibition. With Dr Tom Normand (University of St Andrews), Watson developed the catalogue and collected essays to accompany the show, contributing the ‘Foreword’ with Leighton and the final essay.

Central to the exhibition was a group of master works from the Academy collection, (currently held by the National Galleries) that had not been seen together since their gift in 1910. Around this, the audience was invited to explore the conventions of exhibition- making over three centuries, from the Victorian salon to the white cube.

For example, the ways in which artists and architects have, and continue, to make work were explained through live projects in the galleries: re-visiting the Academy Life School taught each week by Academicians; engagements with contemporary printmaking on a historic press; and through public engagement with artist-in-residence Calum Colvin, whose constructed installation towards a photographic portrait of poet and polemicist Hugh MacDiarmid stimulated ongoing debate around Scottish cultural identity.

‘Ages of Wonder: Scotland’s Art from 1540 until Today’ (4 November 2017 – 7 January 2018) attracted 67,178 visitors over 63 days – with many others attending related lectures, talks and events.

Touring selections travelled to a further seven venues.

People

Project lead(s)

Arthur Watson