7 great reasons to visit The Wyllieum

7 great reasons to visit The Wyllieum

27 Mar 2024

A new museum dedicated to the life of Scottish artist George Wyllie celebrates his incredible creative legacy

Image: Courtesy The Wyllieum

Where can you find The Wyllieum?

This new museum focused on the life and work of famed Scottish artist George Wyllie (1921–2021) opens its doors this spring. It’s a gleaming new purpose-built gallery in Greenock, on the mouth of the River Clyde, and is situated inside the Ocean Terminal, a new waterfront development designed by Richard Murphy. The town is well connected via train, bus and car.

Image courtesy of The Wyllieum

Why should you visit?

This is the first institution dedicated to the pioneering artist, housing the largest collection of his work in the world. Wyllie was born in Glasgow and made a home in neighbouring Gourock, where he lived for decades. He is known for his playful yet socially engaged works, often referred to as ‘social sculpture’. They include homages to the legacy of the Clyde’s prosperous shipping industry, such as The Paper Boat (1989). This enormous yet transient structure was sailed down the river, recalling the launching of over two-fifths of the world’s merchant ships from its mouth in the early 1900s. This new gallery offers a chance to see Wyllie’s work in this very particular context, as well as discovering other artists with similar outlooks and ethos.

Image courtesy of The Wyllieum

Which exhibits are a must-see?

The first exhibition in this new space brings together the largest selection of the artist’s ‘spires’ ever exhibited. This ongoing series consist of spindly structures counterbalanced by a stone, all of which are in a constant balanced motion. Wyllie installed these sculptures across the UK, Europe and the US, drawing attention to the elements and the natural power of the land on which they stand.

Image courtesy of The Wyllieum

What’s on this month?

The gallery’s grand opening takes place on 26 April. Visitors will be able to take in the inaugural exhibition (which runs until 1 September) and a permanent display of archival material and personal ephemera.

Any artistic connections?

Beyond the gallery’s namesake, Glaswegian sculptor Sara Barker has been integral in mounting the Spires exhibition, acting as co-curator alongside Wyllieum director Will Cooper. Barker is known for her multimedia works that span abstract painting and metalwork.

Make a day of it!

Head into town to visit the McLean Museum and Art Gallery, which tells the story of the Inverclyde area through its collections of archaeology, social history and fine art. A short walk away is Greenock Cemetery, which is believed to be one of the largest municipal burial sites in Europe. It features a range of famous graves, including the cairn of James Watt, who was famed for his inventions that revolutionised the steam engine.

George Wyllie’s Paper Boat on a crane / Image courtesy of The Wyllieum

Here’s a fun fact…

Wyllie worked as a Customs and Excise officer in Greenock for three decades before becoming a full-time artist. His role had given him first-hand insight into the machinations of the port and terminal where his eponymous museum now stands.

An interior of the new museum / Image courtesy of The Wyllieum

Find out more!

Head online to wyllieum.com 

Going local

Do you live close by – then why not join the local Arts Society?

The Arts Society Bearsden & Milngavie tasbam.org.uk

The Arts Society Lomond & Argyll tasla.org.uk

Upcoming lectures include ‘Gold in Japanese Art, Sacred and Profane’ by Meri Arichi on 8 April, organised by Bearsden & Milngavie

About the Author

Holly Black

is an arts and culture writer


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