City’s expanding cultural offer embraces the contemporary and the historic

The quality and rich variety of cultural experiences Aberdeen has to offer residents and visitors has been highlighted as Aberdeen said farewell to British Art Show 9, the landmark exhibition of the best recent art from the UK, and welcomed a major new attraction at the historic Provost Skene’s House.

The new £3.8m city-centre attraction, which is part of the City Centre Masterplan, celebrates the pioneering people from Aberdeen and the North-East who not only shaped our city but changed our world. Provost Skene’s House has welcomed 1,600 visitors since it opened on Saturday 9 October.  

Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s City Centre Masterplan spokesperson and culture lead, said: “The re-opening of Provost Skene’s House earlier this month has added a new vibrancy and interest to the city centre. 

"New attractions such as these help build visitor confidence as we recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether you’re a local who’s been watching the progress of the refurbishment, or a first-time visitor to the city, Provost Skene’s House will open your eyes to the incredible talents and achievements of men and women who were born, lived or worked in Aberdeen and the North-East, including the 10 people selected by public vote for inclusion in the Hall of Heroes. 

"With lots of hands-on interactives as well as fascinating and informative displays, there’s something for all ages – a perfect family destination during the school holidays. It’s a tremendous source of pride to see this beautiful historic building in the heart of our city given an inspiring new lease of life.” 

British Art Show 9 opened at Aberdeen Art Gallery and Aberdeen Central Library in July. This is the first time the exhibition has been presented in Aberdeen in the 40-year history of this important survey of recent art from the UK. It was supported by Aberdeen City Council, Creative Scotland and Arts Council England. 
Aberdeen City Council was able to bid to host this major exhibition, which is organised every five years, as a result of the ambitious redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery, the principal funders of which were National Lottery Heritage Fund and Aberdeen City Council.

The award-winning transformation has vastly increased the amount of exhibition space available and improved the environmental conditions for caring for and handling art, as well as greatly enhancing visitor facilities. Preparations for the exhibition were seriously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with restrictions lifted in Scotland in August 2021, one month after the exhibition began its 3-month run in Aberdeen.    

British Art Show 9 welcomed 31,990 visitors who experienced an incredible range of work by 33 artists working in many different artforms. The organisers, Hayward Gallery Touring, are also concerned with creating a lasting legacy for the host cities. In Aberdeen, the network of locally-recruited Ambassadors was central to the exhibition’s success, with Ambassadors delivering a staggering variety of activities – from graffiti jams to online coffee mornings for care home residents - to connect British Art Show 9 with their own communities  

Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokesperson, said: “Aberdeen and its outstanding Art Gallery has proven itself worthy of hosting an exhibition of the scale and quality of British Art Show 9. During the exhibition Aberdeen Art Gallery welcomed over 10,000 people a month and it’s encouraging to see visitor confidence growing and numbers rising following the national and local Covid-19 lockdowns. 

"Aberdeen is now part of an important network of cities who value the impact of culture on our economic and social wellbeing. From other BAS9 cities, such as Plymouth who hosted the exhibition 10 years ago, and are set to welcome it back again next year, the British Art Show has been a game changer: a catalyst for partnership working, and a way of changing perceptions of a city which was seen as a cultural cold spot.

"As BAS9 closes in Aberdeen I hope that as organisations and individuals we can all work together to support its legacy, maintain the momentum and continue to build our reputation as an exciting cultural destination.” 
Amanda Catto, Head of Visual Arts, Creative Scotland said: "We’d like to congratulate Aberdeen Art Gallery on the successful staging of British Art Show 9 this summer. The Gallery provided the perfect setting for this ambitious and expansive exhibition and we’re delighted that so many people took time to enjoy, in person, this thoughtful and engaging show. 

"We’re extremely grateful to the artists, the curators and all those involved in making the show possible despite the challenges of a global pandemic and we look forward to the show’s next iterations as it tours to Wolverhampton, Manchester and Plymouth.” 

Lesley Anne Rose, BAS9 City Coordinator, said: “It's a privilege to have been the Aberdeen City Co-ordinator for British Art Show 9. The real pleasure for me has been working with a team of dedicated local Ambassadors who have been champions within their own communities for the artworks and the themes the show explores. 

"They created some amazing events and opened up conversations in person and online about the exhibition, its presence and its legacy in Aberdeen and the North-East of Scotland. As one Ambassador commented, ‘I’ve really enjoyed being part of BAS9. I shall be more open to contemporary art in the future now I’ve dipped my toe in the water and had my art horizons broadened.’” 
Aberdeen Art Gallery, Provost Skene’s House and Aberdeen Maritime Museum are open 7 days a week, Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 11am-4pm. Admission is free. Find out more.