One month until the unveiling of the new Fruitmarket and opening of a major new exhibition by Karla Black

Published: 08 Jun 2021

Following a £4.3m redesign, expansion and refurbishment and a two year wait, Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket will reopen its doors on 7 July 2021.

A large scale exhibition by Karla Black showing a number of bright pink and yellow shapes

Image credit: Tom Nolan

A free, public space for culture in the heart of Edinburgh, the Fruitmarket will re-launch with an exhibition by Scottish artist Karla Black who has been given free rein to force a moment of raw creative energy into its pristine new spaces.

The presentation of work by Black will span all the gallery spaces, in an exhibition that combines a representative selection of work made over the last twenty years with new, large scale, site-specific work made as a direct response to the new Fruitmarket.

The exhibition offers audiences the chance to revel in the signature colours, forms, materials and experimental energy of Karla’s art: from the ethereal beauty of sculptures made from plaster powder, powder paint, glass, cellophane, gold leaf and metallic thread to the more visceral, strange delight of others made with earth, Vaseline, cosmetics, over-the-counter medicines and all manner of powders, pastes and gels.

The exhibition comes a decade after the Fruitmarket last collaborated with Black, for Scotland+Venice in 2011, for which the artist was nominated for the Turner Prize, and marks the first time the artist and institution have worked together in Scotland.

Press tours will take place on July 2 and 6 2021 and early access in June is available for review purposes.

The refurbishment and expansion of the Fruitmarket, designed by Reiach and Hall Architects, is on a scale that is right for the times, and prioritises re-use and sustainability. In the original market building, the essential rhythms of the rooms and the natural light that floods the upper floor have been preserved. The spaces of the Exhibition Galleries have been simplified and their material finishes and facilities upgraded. There’s a brand new Learning Studio; an enlarged Information Room, Café and Bookshop; and a simple yet commanding new main staircase. Access into and around the building has been improved, with an emphasis placed on equality of experience for everyone.

New, and to be revealed for the first time in July, is an expansion into a second historic fruit and vegetable warehouse.This steel-framed, brick-lined building has been kept as raw as possible. It has been opened out by removing the upper floor and reusing the joists and floorboards rather than bringing in new materials. The resulting space – the new Warehouse – is a joyously unexpected space for artistic creativity that bears witness to the history of the Fruitmarket’s buildings; a dark counterpart to the light and space embodied by the Galleries next door.

Cllr Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener, City of Edinburgh Council said: ‘It’s fantastic news that the Fruitmarket will soon be reopening its doors and unveiling its expansion. It shows the ambition of our cultural institutions is undimmed by the last 18 months, and keeps Edinburgh at the forefront of the contemporary visual arts.

Culture is at the heart of Edinburgh’s ongoing success and I believe that investment in culture is investment in the future health and well-being of our citizens. We are very much looking forward to the opening next month.’

Iain Munro, Chief Executive, Creative Scotland, said: ‘It is a great time to open the new Fruitmarket, a free, public space for culture in the centre of Edinburgh and already well respected on the international cultural map. Opening with an exhibition of work by Karla Black, who represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale 10 years ago, the expanded and transformed Fruitmarket will be a t the heart of Scotland’s year-round cultural scene, with new spaces and new opportunities for art and audiences. This redevelopment, supported with National Lottery funding through Creative Scotland, marks an exciting new chapter for the Fruitmarket, the artists that it supports and the many visitors that it welcomes throughout the year.’

Nick Thomas, Chair of the Fruitmarket, said: ‘It seems a very different time from when the Fruitmarket closed its Market Street doors for redevelopment in September 2019. Today we are thrilled and relieved that in just a matter of weeks, the Fruitmarket will open again, improved, reworked, extended and ready to welcome people back in. We are proud to help bring the city centre back to life at this time when we all so desperately need the joy, wonder, and thinking space that art can give’.

Neil Gillespie, Director, Reiach & Hall Architects, said: ‘We were aware of the formidable cultural significance of the Fruitmarket both as an agency for excellence and as a piece of architecture. The organisation’s  two contrasting but complementary ambitions – renovation and extension – are literally contained within their two contrasting and complementary archetypal spaces. We sought to combine the two very different worlds of the existing Fruitmarket building and the newly excavated warehouse next door to create an ensemble of spaces that is innovative and courageous, offering incredible opportunities for interpretation and use’.

Fiona Bradley, Director of the Fruitmarket, said: ‘we’re proud to have turned the Fruitmarket’s well-loved but well-worn building into a bold, collaborative cultural space. Karla Black’s work looks incredible, and proves the building’s potential to inspire artists now and into the future. All that’s missing is the audience that will bring the building back to life. We can’t wait to welcome people back’.