With a flourishing creative scene, a wealth of galleries and a large community of avant-garde local artists, Edinburgh is a fantastic place to take in contemporary and modern art. Original works from some of the world’s most renowned Surrealists and Pop artists like Eduardo Paolozzi and Salvador Dalí can be found among those of emergent Scottish artists.
Whether you’re into left-field visual art, abstract painting, photography, sculpture, craft or design, there’s plenty to whet the appetite here – most offering free entry. From temporary pop-ups to resident showcases, we’ve got the lowdown on the most interesting and exciting spots to see contemporary and modern art in the city of Edinburgh.
The City Art Centre is found opposite Waverley Station and the Edinburgh Dungeon. The expansive gallery takes up six floors and chiefly promotes Scottish art. There’s a regularly revolving feast of free design, craft, photography and applied art, as well as touring exhibitions. It’s part of the city’s Museums & Galleries network (so entry is free), and it also houses the kitsch Mimi’s Bakehouse on the ground floor.
Take a short amble from the Royal Mile to discover international, diverse and award-winning art curated to appeal to a large audience. A showcase for collectables, many visit Urbane to buy, as well as browse. Catch screenings, artist talks and lectures in addition to its mixed and solo exhibitions. It’s a relative newcomer, having opened in 2014, but is fast gaining traction as an accessible go-to gallery.
Venture off the beaten tourist track, to the bohemian district of Leith. Over 80 artists create, design and make prints, textiles, jewellery, boxes and ceramics at Coburg House, a former granary building. It’s very much a community space, with open studios enabling visitors to watch art in the making, as well as pottering around the monthly hyper-local exhibitions. There’s also a shop selling many of the in-house wares.
A noticeable landmark, just a little away from the main city, Edinburgh Palette is housed in a high-rise office block, emblazoned with the word ART. It’s a melting pot of culture, with open studios, resident makers and performance artists. The galleries here range from large to small, housing pop-up grass-roots exhibitions from the nearby Leith School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art and other local creators.