Ex­hi­bi­tion of the week Ed­in­burgh Art Fes­ti­val

Var­i­ous lo­ca­tions, Ed­in­burgh (0131-226 6558, www.ed­in­burghart­fes­ti­val.com). Un­til 27 Au­gust

The Week Middle East - - Arts -

“Ed­in­burgh in sum­mer­time isn’t a city many of us as­so­ciate with art,” said Alas­tair Sooke in The Daily Tele­graph. From stand-up com­edy gigs to “men in kilts ‘ser­e­nad­ing’ tourists with the screech of bag­pipes on the Royal Mile”, the huge num­ber of events go­ing on as part of its an­nual fes­ti­val tends to ob­scure the vis­ual arts pro­gramme that takes place here ev­ery Au­gust. Small won­der, if this year’s of­fer­ing is any­thing to go by. In­deed, so “meek” and “mea­gre” is 2017’s it­er­a­tion that it “risks pitch­ing Ed­in­burgh’s Art Fes­ti­val into ter­mi­nal ir­rel­e­vance”. The ini­tia­tive presents works by some 250 artists at more than 40 venues and is nom­i­nally (and very loosely) themed around the writ­ings of Scot­tish so­ci­ol­o­gist Pa­trick Ged­des (1854-1932). While there are some de­cent in­di­vid­ual ex­hi­bi­tions, the fes­ti­val as a whole is a di­rec­tion­less and unimag­i­na­tive af­fair. Nev­er­the­less, there is plenty worth see­ing, said Laura Cum­ming in The Ob­server. For con­tem­po­rary work, head to the Jupiter Art­land sculp­ture park, where artist Pablo Bron­stein has con­structed a “spec­tac­u­lar” ar­chi­tec­tural folly “straight out of Alice’s Ad­ven­tures in Won­der­land”. Bet­ter still are the ex­hi­bi­tions tak­ing place in Ed­in­burgh’s mu­se­ums. At the Scot­tish Na­tional Gallery of Modern Art is True to Life, an “eyeopener” of a show de­voted to Bri­tish re­al­ist paint­ing in the in­ter­war years that is packed with un­justly “ne­glected” artists. But the “crown­ing glory” of the city’s art pro­gramme is the Scot­tish Na­tional Gallery’s sur­vey of Car­avag­gio’s fol­low­ers, fea­tur­ing gen­uine “mas­ter­pieces” by the likes of Artemisia Gen­tileschi, Ge­orges de la Tour and Jusepe de Rib­era, as well as six works by the Old Mas­ter him­self. True to Life, show­ing off long-ig­nored but now fash­ion­able re­al­ists such as Mered­ith Framp­ton, is the fes­ti­val’s “best” show, said Walde­mar Januszczak in The Sun­day Times. The Na­tional Mu­seum of Scot­land also has a fas­ci­nat­ing ex­hi­bi­tion de­voted to Bon­nie Prince Char­lie and the Ja­co­bites. Though it con­sists largely of wall texts “in­ter­spersed with oc­ca­sional ob­jets d’art et d’his­toire”, it had me “por­ing over ev­ery comma”. But the con­tem­po­rary art on show runs the gamut from em­bar­rass­ing to “desul­tory”. The worst of­fender is a “home-made green­house” con­structed in the shadow of Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle by artist Bobby Niven. Noth­ing – “not even the spec­ta­cle of the artist him­self mak­ing piz­zas in an oven he also con­structed on the site” – gives it any “artis­tic point” what­so­ever. Over­all, this fes­ti­val feels like a missed op­por­tu­nity.

Mar­guerite Kelsey (1928) by Mered­ith Framp­ton

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