Alfresco Art in Edinburgh

By: Anna Millar

April 5, 2013

Jupiter Artland. Antony Gormley. Firmament.

Edinburgh’s world-class galleries and expertly curated collections are no secret. What is less widely recognised is that the city also boasts a fantastic selection of artwork housed outside the four walls of Edinburgh’s many impressive art institutions.

Head towards Waverley railway station and you’ll find such diverse spaces as the Collective, Stills, Ingleby and Fruitmarket Gallery waiting to be explored – and explore them you should. But before that, head for some alfresco art, opposite the back entrance of the station on Market Street.

Cross the road and you’ll find Turner prize winner Martin Creed‘s “˜Work No 1069’, which transformed the Scotsman Steps running from Market Street to North Bridge in 2011. Fashioned over two years, Creed covered the Grade A-listed steps in 109 different types of marble from around the world to create a truly impressive (and functional) piece of public art, taking those who climb it from Edinburgh’s old to new town.

Martin Creed Work No 1069 | Edinburgh

Martin Creed’s ‘Work No 1069’, Scotsman Steps. Courtesy of Martin Creed and The Fruitmarket Gallery

© Gautier Deblonde

At one of the station’s other exits, heading out onto Calton Road, there are more discoveries to be made with Callum Innes‘ first light-based work, The Regent Bridge. Set just up from the Ingleby Gallery, Innes’s work has transformed the lower arch of the bridge into an illuminated plinth, flooding the tunnel with light and revealing the architecture of the bridge above. Check it out when it’s dark to get the full effect.

Innes' The Regent Bridge | Edinburgh

Callum Innes’ ‘The Regent Bridge’ © Callum Innes and Ingleby Gallery

Across town in the west end, with so much to see inside the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, it’s easy to rush past the sculpture garden outside so allow time to see it all. Outside Modern One, Charles Jencks‘ radical landscaping piece “˜Landform’ is hard to miss. Visitors are invited to walk and sit on the terraced paths – and on a sunny day locals can be found with a good book, simply hanging out and taking in Jencks’ world view.

Charles Jencks' Landform | Edinburgh

Charles Jencks’ ‘Landform’ © National Galleries of Scotland

A short stroll finds you at Tracey Emin‘s “˜Roman Standard’, in which a small bird, cast in bronze, perches on top of a thirteen-foot pole in her affecting piece about strength and freedom. Close by, Henry Moore’s semi-abstract ‘Reclining Figure’ bronze sculpture looks at the relationship between the body and the land.

Walk across to Modern Two’s garden and you’re confronted by Nathan Coley‘s illuminated 6-metre high creation, “˜There Will Be No Miracles Here’. Notable for being one of the pieces that led to his Turner Prize nomination, it’s a firm favourite, alongside work by Edinburgh’s own Eduardo Paolozzi. His ‘Master of the Universe‘ piece, based on a drawing by William Blake feels like the understated star of the show.

Nathan Coley's There Will Be No Miracles Here | Edinburgh

Nathan Coley, ‘There Will Be No Miracles Here’, 2007-2009 © Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Those willing to venture slightly further afield would be crazy to miss the amazing Jupiter Artland, which sits in the 80-acre grounds of Bonnington House just outside Edinburgh – and is easily accessible by bus. Open May to October, this outside art gallery includes work by Andy Goldsworthy, Charles Jencks, Anish Kapoor, Peter Liversidge and Cornelia Parker – with temporary and new permanent creations added each year.

Charles Jencks' Life Mounds | Edinburgh

Charles Jencks’ ‘Life Mounds’ at Jupiter Artland © Allan Pollok-Morris

For something really special though, the life’s work of beloved poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay can be found at the awesome Little Sparta in the Pentland Hills south west of Edinburgh. With more than 275 artworks by the artist, this ethereal Arcadian garden includes concrete poetry in sculptural form. It’s breathtaking. Just make sure you check when it’s open, as it’s closed through the winter and only open to the public three days a week.

Ian Hamilton Finlay's Little Sparta | Edinburgh

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s ‘Little Sparta’ © Ian Hamilton Finlay

Virgin Atlantic Little Red is our new UK domestic service, offering great value, full service multiple daily flights between London and Manchester, London and Aberdeen and London and Edinburgh. Little Red flights can be booked now, bringing you closer to all our destinations.

Header photo: Antony Gormley’s ‘Firmament’ 2008 © Allan Pollok-Morris

Got any Edinburgh art secrets to share? We’d love to hear about them below.


Anna Millar

Anna is a Glasgow born and Edinburgh based freelance writer and editor specialising in arts and travel. When she’s not exploring the Highlands and Islands or reviewing Scotland’s festival scene, she’s likely to be found propping up the bar at one of New York’s finest watering holes or exploring Europe’s untapped corners.