Exhibition of the week Edinburgh Art Festival
Various locations, Edinburgh (0131-226 6558, www.edinburghartfestival.com). Until 27 August
“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