For the Common Guild

Published

Phoebe More Gordon

Situated on Woodlands Terrace is a gallery known as the Common Guild, a handsome building that boasts a magnificent view of Kelvingrove Park. Recently, I met the communications manager Kitty Anderson, who told us about the gallery. I started by asking her how the Common first got started.

Firstly, how did the Common Guild first start up? Can you tell us about its history?

The Common Guild was established in 2006, with the first project taking place in 2007. The organisation was established by Katrina Brown, former deputy director and curator of DCA, Dundee. It began as an independent initiative, originating from the development of The Modern Institute. The Common Guild is a charitable, not-for-profit organisation supported by Creative Scotland and Glasgow City Council.

The Common Guild presents a dynamic, international programme of contemporary visual art projects, exhibitions, and events. These include gallery-based exhibitions at our current premises as well non-gallery, one-off projects, talks and collaborations. We are committed to presenting artists’ work in interesting and engaging ways and aim to offer access to world-class contemporary art experiences and discussions.

Since 2008 we have been working in partnership with Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art on the Art Fund International scheme, building a new collection of international, contemporary work for the city. To date we have acquired works by Emily Jacir, Matthew Buckingham and Lothar Baumgarten, amongst others, many of which are regularly on display at GoMA. In addition to our own programme, The Common Guild is responsible for the artistic direction of the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2010 and 2012.

During a talk you gave, you mentioned the significance of the name, as representing the best being made available to all. What would you describe as the Common Guild’s vision?

The Common Guild is dedicated to the delivery of high quality contemporary visual arts projects, events and exhibitions working with artists and others both Scottish-based and international. It seeks to offer widespread access to high quality programmes that engage with our visual culture, and introduce voices form elsewhere.

Our commitment is currently to programme over premises – to undertaking and realising projects that will define our identity and broad awareness and understanding of what the Common Guild is.
Through working in collaboration with various existent bodies, as well as developing our own independent programmes, we intend to become a dynamic and wholly positive force in contemporary cultural provision in Scotland. The Common Guild seeks to pursue an ethos of artist-centred practice in the realisation of projects of scale, quality and ambition as well as national or international significance.

I have described the Glasgow art scene as extensive; how would you describe the Common Guild’s relationship to and place within Glaswegian art, and its venues?

In its public focus and international programming, the Common Guild compliments the work of other Glasgow-based visual arts organisations, especially those more accurately geared towards artists support, studio provision and production facilities, and aims to extend awareness and debate. In a city with an widely acknowledged, international reputation as a viable centre for visual artists, the Common Guild seeks to establish a new model of working with artists and audiences that avoids exclusive focus on either gallery or non-gallery based practice. The Guild aims to truly reflect, and therefore support more appropriately, the current nature of artists’ practice, with a more integrated approach to work across different types of spaces and places. Artists increasingly pursue gallery-based practise in parallel with, and complementary to, project working and/or public commissions, events and productions. We believe that the ultimate location of an artwork need not be the premise on which the institution is founded.

What have been the Common Guild’s inspirations, and what are its ambitions?

Inspiration has been taken from a number of models across the world, and the ongoing ‘Detours’ talks series has been crucial to developing our ideas and ambitions. ‘Detours’ aims to introduce views from elsewhere by leaders in the visual arts, and explores the relationship between practice and context: how institutions and professional practice develop in response to specific situations, both geographic and cultural.

The aims of the organisation are:
• To develop awareness of contemporary visual culture through the work of artists on a long-term, sustainable basis.
• To increase public access to contemporary art through the ongoing presentation of exhibitions and projects.
• To support the work of artists, local and international, through exhibition, commission, publication and discussion.
• To promote a strong, confident image of contemporary art and artists in Scotland.
• To foster long-term approaches to education around contemporary art and culture, and an environment in which it can occur.
• To work with the relevant partners on the development of contemporary collecting.
• To establish a sound financial basis and relevant business plan.
• To work closely with relevant partners and potential partners locally, nationally and internationally.
• To ensure dynamic internationalism as a key part of the visual arts provision in Glasgow and Scotland.