Credit Martin Mullaney

The day trip potential of the Southside’s Burrell Collection

By Martin Mullaney

Is it worth venturing out of the West End bubble for a wee culture trip? Martin Mullaney investigates…

I was in my first year of secondary school when the Burrell Collection closed. Now, after six years and many protracted renovations, the famed Southside museum is back in business. 

It would be wrong to describe the Burrell, comfortably situated in Pollok Country Park, as merely an art gallery or an archaeology museum. Housing the eclectic collection of Sir William Burrell, its contents range from Ancient Egyptian sculptures, to Impressionist paintings, to lavish recreations of the rooms at Sir Williams’s home at Hutton Castle. In an admirable effort to compete with the zipline in the nearby playpark, the descriptions of the exhibits try to appeal to any children visiting. For me, after spending months sifting through textbooks, these simple and vernacular explanations were a refreshing change of pace. A small gripe, however, is that these descriptions can sometimes be difficult to match to their respective piece, though this may be a result of the museum having reopened so recently.

That said, it is excellent that these descriptions consciously address some of the more pernicious aspects of certain exhibits’ backgrounds: several paintings were only acquired after their German-Jewish owners were forced by the Nazis to sell them. They also give noticeably more progressive messages than were present in 2016, and I found it especially heartening that a sculpture of a Buddhist bodhisattva, who has historically been depicted as both female and male, came with a brief message that trans people are deserving of respect and acceptance. This is even more significant considering the child-friendliness of the venue.

However one of the most noticeable changes has nothing to do with the collection itself. There is a restaurant, coffee shop and espresso bar within the venue, which are just as mindful of their captive audience as the pre-renovation cafe, hence they are just as overpriced. That’s par for the course with museums, though, and the renovated building does offer a small indoor area for anyone who may have brought their own food (even though I’d recommend picnicking in the gardens nearby instead). If your money doesn’t jiggle, it is worth the extra few squids just to have a pint or glass of pinot in the venue’s restaurant, since the location is a pleasant suntrap with an outdoor seating area that looks out onto the park.

On that, I want to briefly talk about the park itself. During the six year renovation, its paths were blighted by bulldozers and its entrances were fenced off for updates. Pollok Park is no stranger to man made structures (Pollok House, the gardens, the golf courses), and the Burrell is full of some fascinating bits of history, but I worry that focusing too much attention and money on buildings alone risks overlooking the importance of parks as outdoor spaces in urban areas.

That’s why I would implore anyone going to the Burrell Collection to take in the park while you’re there (go seek out the Highland cows, you won’t regret it), and perhaps keep it in mind the next time another Go Ape debacle surfaces.


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