Aberdeen Art Gallery is home to one of the finest collections in the UK, with works by historic and contemporary Scottish artists, designers and makers such as Henry Raeburn, Joan Eardley, Samuel Peploe, Rachel Maclean and Bill Gibb, as well as internationally-acclaimed artists including Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon, Tracey Emin and Claude Monet. It reopened in 2019 following a landmark redevelopment - principal funders Aberdeen City Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
From Brueghel to Borland, Landseer to Lambie, and from Guthrie to Gibb, Aberdeen Art Gallery’s collection spans over 700 years and includes a staggering range of works by local and international artists, designers and makers.
For over 130 years we have been acquiring the best and most interesting contemporary artworks. Today this Recognised Collection of National Significance is regarded as one of the UK’s finest. We are proud to care for these treasures on behalf of the people of Aberdeen and to share their stories with all our visitors.
The Building Opened in 1885, Aberdeen Art Gallery was designed in the neo-classical style by Alexander Marshall McKenzie, who was also responsible for the elaborate neo-gothic Marischal College in Aberdeen, the Fife Arms in Braemar and the Waldorf Hotel and Australia House in London Aberdeen. From its beginnings as a relatively modest suite of rooms, the Gallery was rapidly and substantially extended and modified until 1926, becoming a major complex of picture galleries for the outstanding collection, with a grand Sculpture Court, a war memorial and Remembrance Hall, and the Cowdray Hall concert venue. Between 2015 and 2019 the Art Gallery underwent a landmark redevelopment, supported by Aberdeen City Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This much-loved building has been completely re-imagined by internationally-acclaimed Hoskins Architects and exhibition designers Studioarc.
The original 1885 building was extended in 1905 to accommodate a new plaster cast collection from which students at the newly-established Gray’s School of Art, at that time next door to the Gallery on Schoolhill, could practise drawing. That space is now the Sculpture Court, home to a magnificent collection of 3D works, from plaster casts to broken glass, curated by Stacy Boldrick for the re-opening of Aberdeen Art Gallery in 2019, following redevelopment.
Gallery 1 – Collecting Art
The origins of Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums can be traced to 1873 when flour merchant and art collector John Forbes White, his protegé the painter George Reid, and granite merchant and art collector Alexander Macdonald held a public exhibition of their collections. From this, a plan was developed to establish a public art gallery for the benefit of the citizens of Aberdeen. For over 130 years curators have been collecting art for Aberdeen including significant collections associated with Joan Eardley, Bill Gibb and James Cromar Watt.
Gallery 4 – Human Presence
Supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation
Explore the many ways contemporary artists depict the human body, either directly, or through its absence.
Gallery 5 – Crafting Colour
Discover how makers have perfected techniques in their craft, the materials they use and the ways they choose to embellish their works.
Gallery 6 – Feasting
An appetising survey of the utensils, drinking vessels and tablewares designed over the centuries to keep us fed and watered.
Gallery 7 – Exploring Art
Supported by the Wolfson Foundation
What inspires artists? It is a landscape, a story, a still life?
Gallery 8 – Adorning
Beauty, identity, status and protest: take a look at how and why we adorn our bodies.
Gallery 9 – Balmoral Phenomenon
Explore the royal love affair with Balmoral and the Scottish Highlands.
Gallery 10 – French Impressions
Supported by Barrack Charitable Trust
Explore exquisite pairings of French and Scottish artworks from the late 19th century.
Gallery 11 – First World War Remembered
Supported by HM Treasury
A space for contemplation and reflection on local people’s experiences of war.
Gallery 12 – Around Art Deco
Ceramics and glassware inspired by the bold, geometric designs of the 1920s and 30s.
Gallery 13 – James McBey, Artist Adventurer
Supported by Marguerite McBey Trust
Delve into the life and passions of Aberdeenshire-born James McBey, self-taught etcher, draftsman and painter, war artist and society portraitist.
Gallery 14 – Art of Empowerment
From muse to maker to activist, consider the changing status of women through art and craft of the late 18th / early 19th century.
Gallery 15 – Paradise Lost
Discover how the idea of a creative paradise came under threat from the horrors of mechanised warfare.
Gallery 16 – Shoreline
Supported by Kate Fraser
The sea is a powerful source of inspiration for many artists. Some identify with a particular stretch of coast, others are drawn to objects washed up on the shore.
Gallery 17 – Abstract Art
Get to know the language of abstract art – a kind of visual thinking with colour, shape and form based on the inner experience of the artist.
Gallery 18 – People and Portraits
Whether symbols for ancestry, reminders of dynasties or tools of propaganda, why are we so obsessed with portraits?
Supported by HM Treasury
In 1925 the Art Gallery building was further extended with the addition of the Remembrance Hall, designed by the building’s original architect, Alexander Marshall McKenzie. Opened by King George V, the Remembrance Hall was dedicated in honour of the Aberdeen lives lost during the First World War. During the renovation of Aberdeen Art Gallery, Gordon Burnett was commissioned to create a new artwork for the Remembrance Hall, Forget Them Not, a new focus for quiet contemplation and reflection.
Funded by a gift from Annie, Viscountess Cowdray, to ‘encourage a taste for art and music in the city of Aberdeen’, the Cowdray Hall was opened by King George V and Queen Mary in 1925. Renowned for its exceptional acoustic, the Cowdray Hall has been restored to become a vital part of Aberdeen Art Gallery, a place that uniquely celebrates the inspiring power of art and music in one venue.
At the end of the tour please enjoy a piece of music played by Ignasi Sole Pinas. Ignasi is Musical Director of the University of Aberdeen Symphony Orchestra, Marischal Chamber Orchestra, newly appointed Musical Director of Inverurie Orchestra and a specialist strings tutor with Big Noise Torry. He is also a Conducting Scholar at Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Maestro Scott Wilson.