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Art is Back! Edinburgh Art Festival returns 29 July to 29 August 2021

Published: 14 May 2021

Alberta Whittle, Reset

Alberta Whittle, Reset

Following the cancellation of the 2020 festival and an exceptionally challenging period for the creative sector, we are delighted to confirm that Edinburgh Art Festival will return from 29 July to 29 August this year. The 17th edition of the festival will bring together over 35 exhibitions and new commissions in visual art spaces across the city, complemented by an online programme of events and digital presentations.

Founded in 2004, Edinburgh Art Festival is the platform for the visual arts at the heart of Edinburgh’s August festivals, bringing together the capital’s leading galleries, museums, production facilities and artist-run spaces in a city-wide celebration of the very best in visual art. Each year the festival comprises newly commissioned artworks by leading and emerging artists, alongside a rich programme of exhibitions curated and presented by partners across the city.

This year’s programme continues to place collaboration at its heart, with a series of festival-led commissions and premieres devised and presented in close partnership with leading visual arts organisations and a specially invited programme of new commissions curated in partnership with an
Associate Artist.

As galleries begin to reopen after many months of closure, this year, more than any, we are proud to cast a spotlight on the uniquely ambitious, inventive and thoughtful programming produced each year by Edinburgh’s visual art community. In a rich and characteristically diverse programme of exhibitions, audiences can safely enjoy new work made in direct response to the experiences of last year, alongside projects, exhibitions, and perspectives that have been many years in the making.

All our festival venues will be following the latest government Covid guidelines to ensure visitor safety, and we will be keeping our website regularly updated on what audiences can expect during their visit.

Highlights from the Programme

The festival-led programming features major new commissions and presentations by leading international artists, including the UK & European premiere of Lessons of the Hour by Isaac Julien in partnership with National Galleries of Scotland; and two new festival co-commissions, with work by Sean Lynch in collaboration with Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop; and a sound installation by Emeka Ogboh with Talbot Rice Gallery

In a new approach for the festival, we are delighted to collaborate with Glasgow based artist, film-maker and programmer, Tako Taal as Associate Artist. Responding to the festival’s invitation to reflect on themes and ideas emerging from Isaac Julien’s Lessons of the Hour, Taal has invited new commissions for public and digital spaces, by a new generation of artists living and working in Scotland: Chizu AnuchaSequoia BarnesFrancis DosooThulani RachiaCamara Taylor and Matthew Arthur Williams.

We will also see the return of Platform, the festival’s annual showcase supporting artists in the early stages of their careers to make and present new work – with Jessica HigginsDanny PagaraniKirsty Russell and Isabella Widger invited to create new work for Platform: 2021.

There will also be chance to discover new generation artists at some of our partner galleries across Edinburgh, including the work of Satellite participant Alison Scott at Collective and Ashanti Harris at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.

Solo presentations across the capital include Christine Borland at Inverleith House, RBGE, Alberta Whittle at Jupiter Artland, Frank Walter at Ingleby Gallery, Ian Hamilton Finlay at The City Art Centre, Sekai Machache at Stills, Sonia Mehra Chawla at Edinburgh Printmakers, and a major exhibition by the artist Karla Black for the newly developed and reopened Fruitmarket.

This year’s edition will also feature important retrospectives and major survey shows including The Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure at National Museum of Scotland, Victoria & Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour at The Queen’s Gallery, Joan Eardley at The Scottish Gallery and Archie Brennan at Dovecot Studios.

Sorcha Carey, Director, Edinburgh Art Festival said: “Festivals have always offered a space for gathering, and this year more than any, we are proud to come together with partners across the city to showcase the work of artists from Scotland, the UK and around the world. Some exhibitions are newly made in response to the seismic shifts of the past year; others are the result of many years of planning and careful research; but all are the unique, authentic, and thoughtful products of our city’s extraordinarily rich visual art scene.

"The past year has revealed how precarious things can be for artists and creative freelancers, as well as for the institutions and organisations that support the production and presentation of their work. As galleries begin to re-open across the city, and we look forward to welcoming audiences safely back to the festival and our city, now more than ever we need the space for community and reflection that art and artists can provide.”

Amanda Catto, Head of Visual Arts at Creative Scotland said: “As art unlocks across Scotland we welcome the rich and diverse programme that the Edinburgh Art Festival and its partners will be staging this year. We’re especially excited by the opportunity that the Festival gives us to step away from our screens and to experience art in real life. It’s a great time to experience new work and to be introduced to artists whose work is less familiar, as well as to enjoy the work of artists we already know. We’d like to congratulate and thank the artists and the organisers for maintaining their vision and ambition during a challenging time for the arts and we look forward to celebrating their work in
the summer of 2021.”

View the full announcement.


Festival Safety Measures

Extensive work and care has been undertaken to maintain the safety of the public, our team and artists in presenting our 2021 festival programme. Our partners have worked tirelessly to ensure their venues and exhibitions adhere to all relevant and current government and industry Covid-19 safety guidance, ensuring every effort is made to protect audiences at all times. Further safety guidance for this year’s festival will be published in July via edinburghartfestival.com

Edinburgh Art Festival

Founded in 2004, Edinburgh Art Festival is the platform for the visual arts at the heart of Edinburgh’s August festivals, bringing together the capital’s leading galleries, museums, production facilities and artist-run spaces in a city-wide celebration of the very best in visual art. Each year, the festival features leading international and UK artists alongside the best emerging talent, major survey exhibitions of historic figures, and a special programme of newly commissioned artworks that respond to public and historic sites in the city. Edinburgh Art Festival is a registered charity supported by Creative Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council.


EventScotland is working to make Scotland the perfect stage for events. By developing an exciting portfolio of sporting and cultural events EventScotland is helping to raise Scotland’s international profile and boost the economy by attracting more visitors. For further information about
EventScotland, its funding programmes and latest event news visit www.EventScotland.org. Follow EventScotland on Twitter @EventScotNews.
EventScotland is a team within VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, the national tourism organisation which markets Scotland as a tourism destination across the world, gives support to the tourism industry and brings sustainable tourism growth to Scotland. For more information about VisitScotland see www.visitscotland.org or for consumer information on Scotland as a visitor destination see www.visitscotland.com.

Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here. We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by
helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life. We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery.

The City of Edinburgh Council

The City of Edinburgh Council is a funding partner for Edinburgh Art Festival. The Council aims to maintain and build on Edinburgh's reputation as the ideal location for major events and festivals. Working with the city’s cultural sector, the Council’s arts development team ensures that arts play a vital and lasting role in Edinburgh by developing strategic policy, offering advice on cultural projects and awarding cultural grants.

Art Unlocks

All over the country this spring and summer, Scotland’s art galleries, studios, contemporary art venues and production workshops will be opening up. The #ArtUnlocks campaign organised by Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN), will highlight the cultural opportunities in neighbourhoods across Scotland, with venues that are ready to welcome visitors and artists over the coming months. New openings will be announced and shared using the hashtag #ArtUnlocks and a continually refreshed list of contemporary art openings will be available at: www.scanet.org/artunlocks.

Press Contact

For any press enquiries on Edinburgh Art Festival, please contact Kate Bouchier-Hayes – kate@thecornershoppr.com / 07825 335489 or Susie Gray - susie@thecornershoppr.com / 07834 073795