A partnership between the Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture and the National Galleries of Scotland. As lead curator and Academy President Watson wrote the synopsis for the exhibition and led negotiations with National Galleries Scotland Director General, Sir John Leighton. Overall responsibility for the raison d’etre for the exhibition, selection of works and the design and layout of the galleries assisted by Wood. In addition oversaw the design of both publications, a book of essays edited by Normand to which he contributed a foreword with Leighton and the final essay ‘The Contemporary Academy: from an oil-filled room to the Shelter Stone’, 22 pages, 9 plates, 20 figures, (6164 words) and the catalogue.
Unlike others of ‘National Significance for Scotland’ the RSA Collections are not the result of the curatorial vision or connoisseurship of a small number of museum directors. Rather they have been built up by Academicians, so like the Academy itself they are artist-led. The essence of the Academy as a body of practitioners was central to this exhibition through the inclusion of studies, models and works in progress as well as artists working within the galleries. Pre-dating today’s art schools, work from the Academy Life School was shown including 19th century student paintings by the likes of Peploe beside a weekly anatomical drawing class taught by current Academicians. Six artists made new work on E. S. Lumsden’s restored etching press whilst over the course of the exhibition Calum Colvin built a changing installation leading to a series of large format photographs.
The central and largest gallery illuminated the 1910 division of the RSA Collection bringing back several major works given by the Academy to NGS. This room included studies by Etty, a work in progress by Wilkie and the monumental cartoons by Dyce for his frescos in the Palace of Westminster. There are also masterworks by David Roberts and Jacopo Bassano, usually on permanent display in NGS. In architecture, drawings by Thomas Hamilton and William Playfair that shaped neo-classical Edinburgh contrasted with the model of the roof structure of the restored King’s Cross Station underpinned by a digital archive of some 500 drawings by John McAslan. A key commission to the architect Richard Murphy provided a contemporary cabinet of curiosity to display treasures from the Academy Library both physically and digitally through page-turning software.
The exhibition attracted 67,178 visitors over 63 days with many also attending an associated programme of lectures, talks and curators’ tours.