Aberdeen, the city that meets the sea, sits in a beautiful location and has a whole host of incredible attractions, quirky gems, and picturesque places to explore. The city is famous for its stunning, sparkling, granite buildings and monuments which shimmer in the sunlight and the warming tones of ‘Doric’, the local Scots dialect you’ll hear in the streets. Aberdeen even has its own resident pod of dolphins, so keep your eyes peeled when you visit the harbour.
But have you heard about Aberdeen Art Gallery? This magnificent building has undergone a once-in-a-lifetime refurb, and will be opening its doors to the public on 2 November. Here’s all you need to know:
1. What is it?
Aberdeen Art Gallery is made up of 22 exhibition and display galleries, but it also includes both the Cowdray Hall concert venue and the city’s Remembrance Hall, which together have seen a magnificent transformation over the last 4 years.
The gallery itself is home to one of the finest collections in the UK. It features incredible artworks from Scotland and beyond for you to admire and take inspiration from – but more on that later!
2. How has it changed?
The gallery is now bigger than ever, meaning it can put even more of the city’s exceptional art collections on display in a series of atmospheric and themed galleries which take a fresh approach to interpretation, with digital interactives and an in-gallery personal playlist inspired by the art. The special addition of +music playlists includes unique staff picks and tunes to enhance the mood and atmosphere you experience as you explore the galleries. Listen out for Relax and Reflect, Art Attack, and Musical Musings across the gallery.
Come and explore the magnificently rich and varied collections for yourself, which are displayed against the stunning backdrop of one of Aberdeen’s finest granite buildings. The bold new interiors bring together original elements, such as granite pillars gifted by the city’s granite merchants, as well as creative new design elements including the spectacular new top floor and an impressive glass and concrete skylight.
No gallery visit is complete without a stop-off in the café and shop and Aberdeen Art Gallery’s new rooftop café and terrace, where you can enjoy glorious views over the city skyscape.
Explore both of the two shops to browse the thoughtfully-curated selection of work made by local artists and designers, as well as pieces that reflect the gallery collections and will be on sale for you to take home as a souvenir.
3. When is it opening?
The gallery officially opens its doors to the public on Saturday 2 November. Marvel at the incredible exterior of the gallery across the weekend, and from Monday 4 November you can come and go from the gallery as many times as you please – and with so many treasures to discover, you’ll definitely want to come back again and again! One of the gallery’s special exhibitions is Think of Scotland by Michael Parr, who is a world-renowned photographer and has been returning to Scotland for 25 years, taking pictures of the length and breadth of the country on his travels. Come along to see the exhibition explore leisure, landscape, food and community with Parr’s characteristic twist.
4. Why should I go?
Aberdeen Art Gallery is home to some of the finest collections of artworks in the UK, featuring an intricate range of styles, designs and masterpieces. The permanent exhibitions also include works by important Scottish artists, designers and makers, such as Henry Raeburn, Joan Eardley, Samuel Peploe, Rachel McLean, Bill Gibb and James Cromar Watt, as well as nationally and internationally acclaimed artists including Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon, Tracey Emin and Claude Monet. Where else can you see such a broad range of talent under one roof?
There are set to be 22 galleries and exhibitions for you to explore, but here is just a taste of what you can expect to see:
- Remembrance Hall – In 1925 the Art Gallery building was extended with the addition of the Remembrance Hall, designed by the building’s original architect, Alexander Marshall McKenzie, who also constructed Marischal College, the Fife Arms in Braemar and the Waldorf Hotel and Australia House in London. 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, which it’s hoped will become a new place for quiet contemplation and reflection.
- Cowdray Hall – Originally a gift from Viscountess Cowdray, owners of the Dunecht Estate in Aberdeenshire, as a way encourage art and music in the city of Aberdeen, the Cowdray Hall was opened in 1925 by King George V and Queen Mary. The hall is now renowned for its exceptional acoustic and the local, national and international artists which have performed here. You can see that the Cowdray Hall has been restored to become an vital part of Aberdeen Art Gallery, a place that uniquely celebrates the inspiring power of art and music in one venue.
- Collecting Art – For over 130 years curators have been collecting art for Aberdeen. Explore what they collect and why through spotlight displays including Joan Eardley, Bill Gibb and James Cromar Watt. Browse thousands of items, play games and discover more on the digital Collections Wall. As well as having over 1,000 actual objects on display, there will be thousands more to browse on this fantastic new multi-touch digital Collections Wall in Gallery 1: Collecting Art. The three-metre-wide multi-panel touchscreen includes games, images and new descriptive text, written not only by curators, but by a wide range of staff and volunteers.
- Crafting Colour – Imagine a world without colour! Explore how artists and makers have perfected techniques in paints, dyes and glazes inspired by the world around them.
- Exploring Art – What inspires artists? There are many shared themes in art – such as landscapes, religion and still life. Explore how art is made, from the processes artists follow, to the themes they use to depict their ideas. Follow the artistic process in captivating interactive displays.
- Human Presence – Discover the many ways contemporary artists depict the human body, either directly or through its absence.
5. What else is there to do?
After you’ve explored every inch of the galleries and exhibitions, why not see what else Aberdeen has to offer? There are hundreds of things to see and do across the city that will keep you entertained from the detailed Marischal College and performing arts venue, His Majesty’s Theatre, to the tranquil Duthie Park, and the breathtaking St Machar’s Cathedral.
6. How can I plan a longer trip?
Why not extend your trip and stay a while longer to explore the beautiful region of Aberdeenshire? The region is home to over 260 castles, ruins, and stately homes, so it’s no wonder the area is known as ‘Scotland’s Castle Country’. You can discover 19 of the most famous and dramatic castles in Aberdeenshire, including Dunnottar, Fraser and Fyvie, along Scotland’s Castle Trail.
Did you know there is over 165 miles of stunning coastline in the region? Head along the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail to uncover enchanting coves, paradise beaches, charming towns, incredible wildlife and more. Stop in at Cruden Bay, Fraserburgh, and Banff, to name a few, for some of the most picture-perfect beauty spots along the coast. Why not explore our 7 Days in the East of Scotland itinerary for more holiday ideas? Or venture on an exciting road trip around the incredible Aberdeenshire countryside?
Check out our Culture episode of our 100,000 Welcomes Podcast to learn more insight to the magnificent gallery.
Head to Aberdeen and uncover this incredible artistic gem, as well many other attractions, locations, and hidden treasures that will leave you in awe. Share your experience on social media using #AberdeenArtGallery.