Curator, gallerist and art dealer Paul Robertson left Summerhall last summer and has opened a new gallery in a very rural area near Edinburgh. We got in touch with him to find out more about his new venture, Lust & the Apple.
I’d have never thought I would end up founding a contemporary art gallery right in the middle of the countryside. I thought I was as urban as a dirty bus-stop outside a kabab shop. But then suddenly it happened.
If I’m honest it started as a solution to a problem – that I have an archive of nearly 9,000 books and art works from the international avant garde which I needed to find some storage space for urgently and looking around in the city, I suddenly realised I was facing huge rents that I could not afford.
And then a friend – thanks Megan – pointed out this old school house in a village just 14 miles south of Edinburgh. It was in a former Knights Templar bailiwick (where the fabled Templar gold, spirited away from Paris in 1320, was supposedly hidden between an elm and an oak tree) and had been empty for years. After a visit or two I realised it was an amazing opportunity!
So I went in and negotiated a deal with the factors, moved my collection into two big rooms and suddenly had the insight that I had loads of space left over. Especially if one took into account the four cubicle and two shower old fashioned concrete toilet block that reminded me of my own school days in Denny freezing my bollocks off in the outhouse buildings of the 1960s. There are 2,500 square feet of old school rooms here (one complete with blackboard), a 1,000 square metre garden and a car park big enough for 8 – 10 cars.
I suddenly remembered that I didn’t own 8 cars never mind 10.
So LUST AND THE APPLE was conceived. Every available space would be used to create what I thought could be a very special art gallery showing risky and challenging contemporary art continuing the work I had done at Summerhall as the curator there for the last three years. I built a 9 x 5m white internal space in one room to allow a more traditional hanging and then I started to consider a programme of artists for the coming year. Initially I decided to show three artists every quarter but I am now more likely to exhibit four or more each time as the artists are inspired by the desire to use all of the spaces including the roof and car park.
Here’s the thing – the best side to having your own gallery is that you can put on whoever or whatever you want. My opening shows were Tim Sandys, Maris and Kenny Watson (all of whom I have worked with before) and in May, the gay new York icon Cary Leibowitz will create a new installation out of tartan football scarves, alongside other initiatives by Mike Ballard from London, Edinburgh’s own Alex Allan and the New Zealand artist Elke Finkenauer; each taking over bits of this rather fantastic place. There’s a BBQ opening on the 15 May.
For the Edinburgh Festival, the famous conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner has created a new outdoor work created especially for the gallery, Denmark’s art duo PUTPUT will be creating an artist’s greenhouse in the garden, David Connearn will most probably be making a gravel drawing in the car park (although we have an offsite project for the fields nearby which may happen if we can raise the money) and Cisco Jimenez (a very significant Mexican artist) will be showing paintings and ceramics in the white gallery. There will be other artists too soon to be announced including I hope one other very well known name. We may well be running a daily art minibus from Edinburgh for the first week too.
Other artists are planned – Jonathan Monk, Maurizio Nannucci, Gregor Schneider, Christine Borland have all indicated that they are likely to work with LUST AND THE APPLE in the future if we can find the right project. And I will be showing many emerging Scottish and UK artists (much as I did at Summerhall) as I want to help the next generation of graduates get a foothold in the contemporary art scene.
Finally – this is all done out of my own pocket. I cannot see any reason to approach Creative Scotland as in my experience of them, they are deeply bureaucratic, inflexible and cowardly about contemporary art projects. If you happen to know a rich private sponsor then do email me – I could do with the help. But in the meantime I hope to make LUST AND THE APPLE a significant part of the Scottish art scene even if it means I have to live off the apples from the tree found in the garden here. I will eat them lustly.
Lust & The Apple’s upcoming opening of four exhibitions featuring Cary Leibowitz (NYC), Mike Ballard (London), Alex Allan (Edinburgh_ and Elke Finkenauer (New Zealand) will be on Friday 15 May. There will be a minibus service from Edinburgh for £8 return and all are welcome for drinks, art and BBQ (weather permitting). These shows will continue to run until 19 July.
Read more about Paul Robertson’s career on Central Station in his My First 5 Jobs article here.