Collectors' Choice: An Investigation into Collecting Contemporary Art

RSA Lower Galleries

Free entry


For a 360° panorama of the show click here.


This year brings a plethora of public participation activities to the very core of the exhibition-making at the RSA.


In Spring, we developed the exhibition 'EGO' for the Friends of the RSA Coffee Room and corridor. The exhibition of self portraiture is sourced from the Collections of the RSA but the interpretation of the works is left up to the public to complete and add their own comment. Visitors can do this by directly filling out gallery labels in the exhibition or by adding their comments to the EGO facebook page. All comments go towards the development of other visitors' interaction with the show.


During the Edinburgh Festival 2013, the BBC Your Paintings initiative will be asking the public to remake a composite the work 'Edinburgh Abstract' by William Gillies RSA. This painting is in our collection and features on the BBC Your Paintings website. The composite will come back to the RSA and be shown in the building for the remainder of the Festival


Now, for the Edinburgh Art Festival 2013, we have another show selected from outwith our own curatorial teams. This time selected by Collectors suggesting artists from their own Collections. The premise of this exhibition is to begin to investigate the "who, what and why" of collectors and collections acquiring work by Scottish artists.


The Collectors were approached to name one artist from their own collections and these works are loaned to the RSA for the exhibition. We then approached the selected artists and asked them to provide works from their studio.


The Collectors were asked about their collections and their aspirations about collecting. Through these discussions we learn the reasons behind the development of these collections and what has inspired them to continue to collect. For some, these artworks are conversation pieces. For others, they have come as gifts. The reasons for collecting and what the works achieve for the collectors are many but the over-riding theme has been their enjoyment of the works. They enjoy the art, the contact with the artists and galleries and the effect the works have on staff, colleagues and visitors to their premises and collections.


The Collections selected here include businesses such as Turcan Connell; Walter Scott & Partners Ltd; and Aberdeen Asset Management; a University Collection from St Andrews University; The Pier Art Centre - a gallery collection with National Significance and the RSA's own private collection - also recognised as Nationally Significant.


The exhibiting artists - Joyce W Cairns RSA; Moyna Flannigan; William Littlejohn RSA; Steven MacIver; Barbara Rae RSA; Margaret Tait; Graeme Wilcox; and Sylvia Wishart have all been selected by their Collectors. In turn, most artists have made their own choices as to what they would show alongside the work chosen by the Collector. This deliberation and re-engagement with a work which may have been with a collector for a number of years has also been an interesting journey for them. Some artists have sourced works contemporary to the period of the loaned collection work and others have responded to the opportunity with new paintings.


Of course, collecting isn't just confined to business, education and galleries. There are many other types of collectors and collections and, as a new research and engagement project for the RSA, 'Collectors' Choice' can begin to investigate, discuss and promote this opportunity over the next few years. From large personal private collections to new collectors catching the collecting bug for the first time, we hope to be able to fully develop this initiative to encompass all areas of collecting in Scotland. Indeed the RSA is an affiliated  OWN ART gallery and this opportunity enables visitors to the gallery to buy modest works to start their collection… All collections have to start somewhere and the collecting bug is so very addictive…….


The Royal Scottish Academy is indebted to the Collectors and artists whom have made this show possible. We owe them a great deal of thanks for their participation and support for the show. Thanks also to the Edinburgh Art Festival for their support and inclusion in the EAF Programme for 2013 - we're very glad to be part of the Festival once again.


Lastly a great deal of thanks to the Own Art team at Creative Scotland for the considerable support and encouragement shown for this initiative.


Colin R Greenslade

Director, Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture