Sunday, 30 March 2014

Glasgow International is nearly here - time to get planning!

Glasgow International 2014: Inflatable art, nail bars & dystopian visions in Scotland’s creative capital

Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), Glasgow, Scotland, 4 April 2014–21 April 2014

Posted by Susie Stubbs 25 March 2014

Bedwyr Williams, ‘The Starry Messenger' (still), 2013. Courtesy the artist, MOSTYN, Oriel Davies & Arts Council of Wales

As Glasgow gears up for its biennial festival of visual art, we publish aguide to the city, and an overview of a festival considered by some to be the best in Britain.

Glasgow International may be one of the world’s younger visual art festivals, but in the years since this particular biennial baby launched in 2005, it has secured the attentions of critics, artists and the culturally minded from across the globe. The Guardian’s notoriously hard to please Adrian Searle reckons it’s the country’s best such fest; critic Laura Cummings praised it for its “openness, involvement and honest directness”.

One of the reasons Glasgow International has risen through the ranks so quickly is that it hasn’t been conjured out of thin air. Like Liverpool Biennial, it’s based on a homegrown and artist-led arts scene, one that just happens to have international credibility. And while it doesn’t hurt that GI is held in one of the most interesting cities in Europe, another reason it works is thanks to its efforts to push the boundaries of what is commonly considered “visual art”. So, the last event saw a focus on live and immersive artworks – Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege, a bouncy castle version of Stonehenge, for example, or artists at the Mitchell Library masquerading as librarians – and it also saw a spike in the numbers of giddy, bouncing-up-and-down art lovers who attended.

It doesn’t hurt that GI is held in one of the most interesting cities in Europe

The focus this year is no different. Although the 18 day festival is headed up by a new director (Sarah McCrory, formerly of Frieze Projects), and although it takes over all of the city’s mainstream museums and galleries, the trend for immersive, innovative art continues. Bedwyr Williams creates a dark and disturbing installation at Tramway, a life-size vision of a world corrupted by greed and status symbols, Alistair Frost runs a nail bar from a disused shop unit, and a group exhibition atSWG3 Gallery sees artworks tumble from the frames that normally constrict them.

Anthea Hamilton and Nicholas Byrne, meanwhile, bring back the inflatable art, this time via a series of pin-shy sculptures that fill a disused, historic swimming baths, and Play Summit, led by artist Nils Norman, relocates an adventure playground to Glasgow Green, with a series of parallel talks and demos lined up to tackle the issue of child’s play (areas) in cities.

With fifty exhibitions, there is much at this year’s Glasgow International to get to grips with, in a city that we have long turned our envious eyes towards – which is why we have published a guide to both the festival and the city it calls home. Written by the Glasgow-based art writer, Chris Sharratt, it provides a handy route around the events that make up Glasgow International, with recommendations of places to eat, drink and shop along the way. And with all artistic eyes about to turn on Glasgow, and with Easter’s Bank Holidays looming large, now is the time to book a trip.

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