Collective – a new centre for contemporary art – will open in Edinburgh on Saturday 24 November 2018 at one of the capital’s major World Heritage sites. Situated on top of Calton Hill, overlooking the capital, Collective will include the restored City Observatory, designed by William Playfair in 1818, a new purpose-built exhibition space with panoramic viewing terrace and a destination restaurant, The Lookout by Gardener’s Cottage. For the first time in its 200-year history the City Observatory site will be freely open to the public. A media preview takes place on Wednesday 21 November at 11am.
A selection of international and Scotland-based artists, commissioned specially for the opening, will exhibit their work at Collective as part of an inaugural exhibition. Affinity and Allusion will draw on themes connected to Calton Hill’s rich history and will feature the work of artists Dineo Seshee Bopape, James N Hutchinson, Alexandra Laudo, Tessa Lynch, Catherine Payton and Klaus Weber.
The opening marks a fresh chapter in the history of the Observatory site and for Collective, an organisation active on the Scottish arts scene since 1984. Collective will position itself as a new kind of observatory, inviting the public to view the world around them through the lens of contemporary art.
The City Observatory, designed by William Playfair in 1818, played a key role in the history of astronomy and timekeeping in Edinburgh. Now restored to Playfair’s original designs, the Observatory will open fully to the public for the first time. The original telescope, installed in the Observatory in 1831, will be on display. The Observatory will also house Collective’s new shop, Collective Matter, selling unique artist editions and specially commissioned products.
The Hillside is a brand-new exhibition and office space embedded in the hillside in front of the City Observatory. The space will primarily exhibit work from Collective’s Satellites Programme for emerging artists and producers in Scotland. A panoramic viewing terrace on the roof of The Hillside will allow visitors to soak up the stunning views north across Leith and the Firth of Forth. The nearby City Dome, completed in 1895 as a subsidiary to the main Observatory, has been restored and will play host to a changing programme of international artists showing their work in Scotland for the first time.
A purpose-built restaurant, The Lookout, has been constructed on the northeast corner of Collective and will be managed by local partners The Gardener’s Cottage. The Lookout will specialise in seasonal cooking using locally-sourced ingredients. Panoramic views from the upper floor dining area, which is cantilevered to partially float above the hillside, will complete an extraordinary dining experience.
The final building to be restored as part of Collective is the Transit House. Originally used as an observatory, the building will now serve as a learning and education space for visiting schools and groups. The original ‘Politician’s Clock’, so-called because it has two faces, will be back on display. Before the installation of the time-ball in the nearby Nelson monument, sailors from the Port of Leith would ascend Calton Hill and use the clock (accurately set by celestial observations) to set their chronometers.
The £4.7m redevelopment is the result of a partnership between Collective and City of Edinburgh Council. Collective moved to the site in 2013 and began fundraising for the project. Funders include City of Edinburgh Council, Creative Scotland, Heritage Lottery Fund, Edinburgh World Heritage, WREN, Grants Foundation, Wolfson Foundation, Garfield Weston, Architectural Heritage Fund, Pilgrim Trust, Hope Scott Trust and the invaluable support of many trusts, funds and individual donors.