Glasgow’s Cultural Art Scene is Rich: Here’s How to Get Your Taste
In recent years Glasgow has become a cultural powerhouse in its own right. With an array of artist-run galleries to international festivals, this vibrant city is enriched with creative energy at every turn.
Boasting a rich history of artists, architects, and designers, it’s no wonder that this city attracts aspirational talent. With the famous Glasgow School of Art unveiled by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1899 catapulting the city onto the world stage throughout the twentieth century, creativity is enmeshed in its very fabric. As the building is now being rebuilt after a devastating fire in 2014, the city is experiencing an artistic rebirth… let’s see why.
Scottish art has always competed on a global stage, with many emerging artists surpassing the English traditionalists to push academic boundaries throughout the twentieth century. With a long history of creatives finding artistic freedom in this rustic city, the recent development of an Urban street art scene is understandable. With artists reaping the benefits of affordability, availability of studio space and a pace of life that facilitates flourishing ideas, it has everything you might need as a young aspiring artist.
Joining Bristol, London, Birmingham, and Manchester as a city open to the form of street art expression, it is full of hidden treasures, quirky murals, and innovative graffiti art. Spanning themes from jungle animals, current politics and Scottish culture, let’s take a look at what the city has to offer.
Street Art in Glasgow
Street art by its very nature is transient, temporary and topical. Glasgow’s tradition of street art goes back to the 1970s when socialist-influenced murals were created at the gable ends of houses. But in the last five years, vibrant street art has been on the rise in a city which prides itself on its unapologetic attitude. Partly due to the exposure from the 2014 Commonwealth Games and its associated cultural activities, and partly due to the work of talented artists such as Rogue-One, VELOCITY, Art Pistol, Recoat and Smug, it’s resulted in an artistic explosion.
With funding from Glasgow 2014, a number of hugely talented artists were commissioned to create murals across the city, ensuring the continuation of a cultural legacy as well as a sporting one in wake of the Commonwealth Games. Vibrant, colourful murals and abstract art pieces have popped up all over the city. Created by a dynamic mix of national and international artists, alleyways, hidden walls, and residential houses have become the modern-day canvas for artists utilising the unique atmosphere.
A floating taxi down a cobbled street. A Dalek rusting away at the bottom of the Clyde. Artists play with scale, colour, and shape, to breathe life into the outdoor spaces of the city. To really experience it authentically we recommend following the Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail, a handy walking guide to accompany all visitors.
Where to go
Take a stroll down John Street and you will stumble across ‘Hip-Hop Marionettes’ by spray painter artist Rogue-One. This quirky installation incorporates break dancers on puppet strings, fusing the vibrant music scene in a modern-day medium. A graffiti artist behind some of the city’s best murals, his work plays with stencils, characters and large scales to push the boundaries and expectations of street art. Now celebrated as one of the most famous and talented street artists in Europe, his murals are a must see.
The Barras is a world-famous market just a ten-minute walk-up Argyle Street. ‘Barra’ in Glaswegian dialect means ‘barrow,’ referring to the early days of the market where traders sold their goods in handcarts. Urban art has been thriving in this neighbourhood for some time, with standout pieces being ‘The Merged Faces’ by Mark Worst and ‘The Young Pirate Girl’ by Rogue-One. Showcasing the variety of ephemeral art, it’s a must visit spot to soak up the rich atmosphere of creativity.
The community of Maryhill and Summerston commissioned public art in order to cheer up the neighbourhood. The highlight piece being a huge mural of three children, depicting the diversity of the community, it demonstrates the power of art in lifting community spirit. Unveiled for the Commonwealth Games, the three children reflect the diversity and multiculturalism of the area, as the artist Elph seeks to play with the theme of identity on a grand scale.
Exciting Spaces to Visit
If you are craving a more traditional exploration of Glasgow’s art scene then there is a rich variety of museums and galleries on offer. Some independent artist run spaces, some traditional white-walled museums, the city really does have something for all art lovers.
The Glue Factory
If you’re not so lucky with the weather, try soaking up creative energy in the Glue Factory in the northern part of the city. Despite the seriously rugged look, the artist-run space on an industrial estate is an established venue that encompasses the city’s DIY spirit. The industrial space runs exhibitions but also hosts print and recording studios.
Located in the Merchant City, Trongate 103 is exemplary of Glasgow’s ingenious approach to stimulating contemporary arts. A place to see art, make art and explore creativity, the space boasts a year-round programme of exhibitions. Spanning all genres, including photography, printmaking, digital media, and even ceramics – this space speaks volumes of Glasgow’s innovative approach to staying at the forefront of contemporary art.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery Museum
One of Scotland’s most popular free attractions, it has been a firm favourite with all visitors since it opened in 1901. Covering everything from Ancient Egypt to the Scottish Colourists with free tours and family activities, it’s a great space to learn more about Scotland’s art history.