Some of Glasgow’s best art is woven into the fabric of the city
No matter how much we get our hopes up that this academic year things will be different, that we’ll manage our workload better and have way more time to do cultural things, the reality of being a student is that a lot of the time you actually just can’t dedicate an hour or two to go see an exhibition, especially when you already have seven deadlines towering over you. Having finally accepted (as I enter my fifth year of uni) that maybe things won’t change and that’s ok, I’ve started to appreciate art that doesn’t require a dedicated trip or a lot of time to go and see – art that you might stumble upon by chance when going about your daily life in Glasgow, and that you might not even notice at first. Here are a few works around the city to keep an eye out for.
Alasdair Gray murals
When you’re catching the subway at Hillhead station, stop for a few minutes to look at the mural of Glasgow’s West End just behind the ticket gates. Strathclyde Partnership for Transport commissioned it in 2012 from Alasdair Gray, one of Scotland’s most celebrated contemporary artists. If you happen to stop by the Ubiquitous Chip, just round the corner on Ashton Lane, you’ll see that his work also adorns the walls and ceilings of different parts of this building’s interior. You can also stroll up to the Òran Mór on Great Western Road to see his night sky mural, located in the old church’s Auditorium.
Glasgow saints street murals
If street art is more your thing, you can find several works just by walking around the City Centre. Sprawled across the gable end of two of the buildings on High Street are two murals by the Australian street artist Smug, depicting modern-day versions of saints that are deeply entwined in Glasgow’s history. One of them depicts Glasgow’s patron saint and founder St Mungo, and the other depicts his mother, St Enoch, holding him as a baby. Both murals feature a robin, a reference to the story “The Bird that Never Flew,” in which St Mungo held a dying bird in his hands and prayed until it came back to life. Traces of St Mungo and St Enoch can be found throughout the city, including churches, squares and memorials, so keep an eye out for them while you’re going about your day.
Sloan’s Bar interior
If you find yourself with a spare half hour before catching a train at Glasgow Central or Queen’s Street Station, walk five minutes down the road to Sloan’s Bar and Restaurant and admire the beauty of its Art Nouveau interior. Originally opened as a small coffee house known as Arcade Café, the tenement building that houses Sloan’s today was built some time later in the 1820s, along with Argyll Arcade. It is named after the prominent pub owner David Sloan, who bought the pub in the early 20th century and remodelled the interior into an opulent Art Nouveau-style venue with various different rooms. There are many original features to admire throughout the building, including its ceramic tiled entrance and stained glass windows.
Glasgow isn’t often recognised for its beauty first and foremost, at least to the same extent as other cities. But for me, a large part of its charm lies in the beauty you find in unexpected places: on street corners, in subway stations, or in the pub on a Friday night. The next time you’re out running errands or commuting to work or uni, take a few moments to look around you –– you might stumble across an overlooked fragment of Glasgow’s history.