World-class sculpture garden opens in Scotland
Jupiter Artland in Edinburgh has commissioned works by Gormley, Kapoor, Goldsworthy and others
By James Knox. Published online: 20 May 2009
EDINBURGH. Doyens of the Scottish art world, well used to the vagaries of the weather, enjoyed a new climatic experience this month when they were showered with moon dust at the opening of Jupiter Artland, a privately funded collection of commissioned land art and sculpture set in a historic landscape on the outskirts of Edinburgh. The performance was part of Nocturne, a firework display directed by installation artist Cornelia Parker, for which she had turned a small rock from the moon into powder that was fired into the sky.
“It was her secret blessing of Jupiter Artland,” said Nicky Wilson, who along with her husband Robert has curated the collection in the grounds of their 17th-century house in West Lothian, commissioning major pieces by the likes of Antony Gormley, Marc Quinn, Anish Kapoor and Andy Goldsworthy. Although reluctant to discuss price, the Wilsons’ commitment to such artists, whose works regularly fetch close to or above £1m before installation costs, makes this one of the most significant acts of private patronage in recent years in the UK.
Mrs Wilson is herself a sculptor, having trained at Camberwell College of Arts, where she was taught by Cornelia Parker. Mr Wilson is chairman of the family firm, Nelsons, which owns Bach Flower homeopathic remedies. The naming of the 80-acre site as Jupiter Artland—suggestive of an Olympic terrain—reflects the “alternative” nature of the Wilsons’ business.
Their first commission, which has taken five years to realise, was Charles Jencks’s Life Mounds—a range of terraced earthworks and pools on either side of the driveway into the estate. Turf-covered crash barriers have been incorporated into the design to protect awe-struck drivers from swerving into the work of art. “Jencks didn’t want us to drive through [the work] but we thought it was important to be encompassed,” said Mrs Wilson.
A guiding inspiration for Jupiter Artland was the late Scottish conceptual artist and landscape designer Ian Hamilton Finlay. His nearby garden Little Sparta “transports you into a different way of thinking…you walk into a magic kingdom”, says Mrs Wilson. There are three works by Hamilton Finlay at Jupiter Artland, including one of his last pieces, Temple of Apollo, which he installed four months before his death.
All the artists were invited to choose their own sites. Gormley’s Firmament, a massive welded steel figure of a crouching man, directs the eye towards the iconic Forth rail bridge in the distance. Goldsworthy’s Stone House—Bonnington, a meticulously constructed flint hut, shelters an exposed outcrop of the Pentland Hills. “There is something unnerving about entering a building in which nature is the occupant,” says Goldsworthy of the work.
A schedule of new commissions is already underway. Witty conceptualist Peter Liversidge is planning a midsummer day’s snowstorm on 24 June, while projects from Turner Prize short-listed artists Nathan Coley and Jim Lambie are also in the pipeline. The Wilsons’ impact is already being recognised—John Leighton, director general of the National Galleries of Scotland, told The Art Newspaper: “Jupiter Artland is a very significant enrichment of the art scene in Scotland—at once new, yet with a sense of tradition and belonging.”
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