Located five miles west of Edinburgh (25 minutes by bus from the city centre), Jupiter Artland has been open every summer since 2009. I first visited it in 2016 when it was shortlisted for the Museum of the Year Award, losing out to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Ian Hamilton Finlay's garden, Little Sparta, also located between Glasgow and Edinburgh, was an inspiration for the newer project, each combining the pleasures of a garden with those of a sculpture park.
Jupiter Artland is open from 10am-5pm every day from 18 May until 29 September. Set over 100 acres of woodland and meadows, with views to the Pentland Hills and the three Forth Bridges, it houses a splendid collection of site-specific artworks by some of the world's best-known contemporary artists including Andy Goldsworthy, Anish Kapoor, Phyllida Barlow and Anthony Gormley. Charles Jencks' landforms of sculpted hills and lakes, the project's first commission, are lovely to walk through and over. One of my favourite works is Cornelia Parker's 'Gun and Tree': a replica of a shotgun nine metres tall in rusty metal leans against a tree, its barrel cradled in the tree's upper branches. Nearby, Laura Ford's ghostly white bronze girls are glimpsed among the trees having tantrums.
A programme of temporary exhibitions by national and international artists culminates in a festival of art, film and music, at Jupiter Rising (23-25 August). With a mission that includes a free school visit for every child in Scotland, Jupiter Artland is a work-in-progress. Its owners and creators, Nicky and Robert Wilson, who live on the site, invested their wealth from the family's homeopathic business (including Rescue Remedy) into commissioning artworks inspired by the landscape. The results are spectacular. For more information, visit the website here
'Seven Waves', Rodel, Harris
Whatever happens, I'll be heading for Rodel in Harris this summer, even though it's now too late to try and find some elusive Royal Household Whisky, once thought to be available only at the Rodel Hotel. Alas, Donnie Macdonald's legendary establishment is now a private house and a bottle of 1970's Royal Household will cost you £1,000.
St Clement's Church in Rodel is one of Scotland's medieval jewels, especially the ornate tomb of its builder, Alasdair Crotach Macleod. Its walls also hold two famous and somewhat controversial carvings – a Sheela-na-gig of a naked and apparently exhibitionist woman, and Seamus a' Bhuid, or James of the Willy, a somewhat excited male figure.
But I have another reason for going to Rodel. Because this summer the links connecting Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and Scandinavia will be celebrated in the first major contemporary art installation ever permitted at St Clement's. David Jackson and Erlend Brown's 'Seven Waves' is an interpretation on a spectacular scale of George Mackay Brown's cycle of poems 'Tryst on Egilsay'. It's the story of how, nine centuries ago, the devoutly Christian Earl Magnus Erlendsson, joint ruler of Orkney and Shetland with his cousin Earl Haakon, under Norwegian oversight, was betrayed and murdered on the island of Egilsay.
Each poem, in English and translated for the first time into Gaelic by Ruairidh MacLean, is matched with a huge hanging canvas 'wave' suspended from the St Clement's roof.
George Mackay Brown called the martyrdom of Magnus 'the most precious event in Orkney's history', and 'Seven Waves' makes explicit the Western Isles – and Scotland's – Scandinavian heritage. I will make my way to Harris from St Magnus Bay in Shetland – a pilgrim bearing a scallop shell. 'Seven Waves' is open to the public from 2 June until 1 September.
T.rex in Town, Kelvin Hall
I've seen skeletons before – whale skeletons, human skeletons – the kind of things you usually find in museums. There's something strange and uncanny about skeletons. An object that used to be alive. It's unnerving as you think of the flesh that once clung to the bone, the things it saw and ate. You think about who found it, who assembled it, this framework of life. Then I met a skeleton that wasn't an object. I looked at it and it looked back at me – or should I say she
The skeleton in question was one 5,000kg Tyrannosaurus rex, Trix. When I first saw her, there was something deep in my brain that wanted to run away: I couldn't turn my back, her head lowered and brimming with teeth. It was like I was eight years old and falling in love with dinosaurs all over again. How small I felt looking upon the bones of this giant. A work of art, she is 66 million years old, it makes you feel as though you've only been alive for a second.
I'm very glad our paths crossed. You see there aren't many T-rex in the world, at least not many above ground. We have 15, the majority of which are in America where they were found. T-rex are generally from Montana, South Dakota or Wyoming. Out of those 15, our temporarily Glaswegian Trix is in the top three for most complete, with around 80% of her bones. Her remaining 20% is partially made up of 3D-printed replicas of another T-rex specimen and a mirrored copy of her own leg. All of this is expertly explained in Trix's display, alongside a video of how Trix was discovered and brought to the Netherlands.
My favourite part was the welcome she received as she was taken to her new home: adults and children alike took to the streets to scream in excitement at the prospect of their very own T-rex. We Scots are very fortunate to share in the adventure as Trix is only touring whilst a larger enclosure is built to accommodate her new visitors. She is visiting Salzburg, Barcelona, Paris, Lisbon, and Glasgow, before heading home, unlikely to tour again.
You do have to pay to see Trix, but you are not just paying to see her marvellous bones. A unit had to be built to house Trix – a unit that is ventilated and temperature controlled – for Trix is a real fossil and can grow mould if not attended to. In addition, great thought has been put into the exhibit.
There are many areas that draw you in. However, one was particularly 'Jurassic Park'-like: you can get on a bike and see if you can out-race a dinosaur. It's as crazy as it sounds. In the mirror you can see the T-rex gaining on you, crushing logs in its wake. If you aren't fast enough, you get caught and a huge pair of T-rex jaws crash down in front of you as you are well and truly eaten alive. I give it 10/10, and would gladly be eaten again! Trix is at Kelvin Hall
in Glasgow until 31 July.
There's a three-museum trip to be made, in a west-east-north arc from the banks of Glasgow's Clyde, through the shores of East Fife, to the port of Dundee on the Tay: it has a touch of melancholy in it, as museums tend to engender. But it's much more of a prompt to thought and understanding – good museums' forte.
Glasgow's Riverside Museum, at Pointhouse Place on the Clyde, has transport as its theme: and the spacious halls have thundering steam locomotives, luxurious cars and corporation buses, all of a certain age, polished and gleaming as they once were; but static, as they rarely were. It's very well explained: good for kids, most of whom will like machinery and motion, even if (or especially because) they must imagine the latter.
My grandfather, William Fortune, served his time in the Glasgow shipbuilding yards – but got out while they were still roaring ahead and joined the merchant navy, becoming that essential figure to all writing about the British empire at sea – the Scots engineer. Retiring from the sea, he and a fellow craftsman made a living mending the engines of the fishing fleet which crammed the East Fife harbours: my mother and I lived with him and my grandmother in their Anstruther cottage till their deaths.
It's in Anstruther where the second museum is. It's the Scottish Fisheries Museum, created in 1969: the harbour, once the most important fishing port on Scotland's east coast, was declining, and a committee was formed to create a centre where evidence of the fishing way of life could be seen.
Two hours spent there is an immersion in another world – while across the street is the harbour which had housed the boats, both restored originals and models made in the museum's workshop, which had fed a nation. There's evidence of the hardness and danger of the life, in often tumultuous seas in open boats; there's due recognition given to the fisher lassies, who gutted and cured and packed the fish, following the fleet as it went north and south in search of herring, cod, mackerel and plaice.
There's a room full of the diesel engines my grandfather kept going; there's mock-ups of the fishing families' homes – cramped, with nets being mended constantly. The old timers of my youth would talk – it was the most frequent phrase, and we at the local school would imitate them cruelly, as kids do – of the days 'when ye cud walk across, frae pier tae pier, on the decks o' the boats'. The town was encompassed by fishing: the heroes were the skippers and crews who ventured most and got the biggest catches; you could hear their boots on the pavement if you were wakened at 4am or 5am; and you heard, again from the elders, of a skipper meeting a minister out for an early morning pilgrimage – and turning back, since it was lethal bad luck to encounter a man of the cloth before sailing.
Go north, past St Andrews, over the Tay to Dundee on its northern shore: as you travel, look out of the windows to your right and see the Victoria and Albert Museum, Dundee branch. It has already done some good: the building, at least its outside, has been much praised: and the exhibits, much of these sent north from the vast palace which is the London V&A, have attracted fair crowds. In contrast to the museums in Glasgow and Anstruther, it's a space which looks to the future: Dundee's Abertay University founded the first degree in computer games, and studios in Dundee have produced, in the last two decades, world-beating games as Grand Theft Auto. Running now in the museum is an exhibition called 'Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt', which the museum describes as 'the first exhibition to fully consider the complexity of videogames as one of the most important design fields of our time'.
Dundee remains famed for having rested, in its prime, on the three economic pillars of jute, jam and journalism: the jute used as backing for linoleum, made across Fife in Kirkcaldy; the jam invented as a bottle-able commodity; and the journalism centred on the firm of D C Thomson, producer of the Sunday Post, the Peoples' Friend, the Beano and the Dandy. The latter two comic series are part of the display. It will take more than the V&A to haul Dundee back up to its days of prosperity: but it's an elegant start.
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