The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art can be found in beautiful landscaped parklands located a short walk from Princes Street by the Water of Leith in Edinburgh. Modern One (John Watson’s Hospital) and Modern Two (Dean Gallery) house the national collection of modern art and also host regular temporary exhibitions, while the grounds are embellished by a diverse collection of fascinating sculptures.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art — Photo courtesy of Finlay McWalter
The national collection was originally housed in Inverleith House at the summit of the hill in the Royal Botanic Gardens. In 1980, it moved to the delightful neo-classical John Watson’s Hospital, which was built in the 1820s by William Burn, the pioneer of the Scottish Baronial style. The location is fronted by a beautiful columned portico leading into a glass canopied entrance. Inside, the galleries are clean, uncluttered and modern, yet the building retains the grace and charm of its façade.
This elegant building is home to early 20th-century art (notably French and Russian Cubist and Expressionist works) and modern British art. The collection includes exquisite works by Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Antony Gormley, David Hockney, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. The gallery also provides space for traveling special collections and houses the conservation workshop for all of the national galleries.
The café in Modern One has a wonderful terraced dining area with excellent views of the grounds. The café offers a good selection of sandwiches, salads and hot dishes, along with a tempting array of cakes and ices to follow. There is also a small shop selling a fine selection of art books, fine jewelry, homeware and a range of postcards featuring artworks from the gallery’s collection.
Former Dean Orphanage, now part of Scotland's National Gallery of Modern Art — Photo courtesy of Kim Traynor
In 1999, the Dean Orphan Hospital - built in the 1830s to a design by noted water colorist Thomas Hamilton - was adapted to become Modern Two. It features a central Ionic portico fronted by four massive columns, topped by a delicate clock tower and flanked by two wings with a set of four stylized chimney stacks soaring above them.
Inside Modern Two, there is a fascinating recreation of Eduard Paolozzi’s workshop gallery and an excellent collection of surrealist and Dada art works. It also provides space for temporary and permanent exhibitions and houses the Gabrielle Keiller library and archive and another small shop.
The café servicing Modern Two is dominated by Paolozzi’s massive sculpture of Vulcan. As well as a selection of freshly prepared soups, baguettes, light bistro-style meals and antipasti, this delightful eatery serves a wonderfully decadent high tea with mouth-watering scones, cakes and pastries.
The grounds at Scotland's National Gallery of Modern Art feature a series of beautiful sculptures by notable artists such as Henry Moore, Rachel Whiteread, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Richard Long and Nathan Coley. The lawn in front of Modern One was transformed into a massive “landform” sculpture by Charles Jencks. Inspired by chaos theory, this beautiful piece of living art won the Gulbenkian Prize in 2004 and has proved an extremely popular attraction for visitors to Edinburgh.