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Local Government Dundee

State of the art

Dundee V&A, expected to open in 2014

Kerry Lorimer Local Government Correspondent

Dundee has reinvented itself as a thriving home for the arts

Plastic bottles, 250 of them, glow pink, green

and blue in a luminous installation suspended over three floors. It’s bold, bizarre, and deeply provocative. But for the thousands of visitors who have flocked to Dundee’s McManus art gallery since it reopened last February, the sculpture by city artist David Batchelor will be one of their most abiding memories. Te piece is the focal point of a dazzling

collection housed in the Gothic revival-style building in the heart of the city. Te rebirth of the McManus is just one sign that Dundee is a city in the grip of a cultural revolution. While other parts of Scotland grapple with what the economic downturn means for them, the city that used to be known for jam, jute and journalism is reinventing itself as hub for the arts. Its greatest endorsement came when

the V&A chose the city as the location for its first dedicated museum outside London. Te prestigious attraction, which is expected to open in late 2014, will be at the heart of Dundee’s ambitious waterfront redevelopment, and a catalyst for the wider regeneration of the city.

32 Holyrood 28 March 2011

David Dorward, chief executive of Dundee

City Council for the last seventeen months, is in a better position than most to grasp the scale of the transformation. “Te V&A story is quite phenomenal,” he says. Te magnitude of the new facility really hit home when he saw the programme of exhibitions planned for the museum for the first four years of its existence. It includes one touring exhibition which comes to Dundee after a stint in Shanghai. “It is just amazing that we are now on that circuit,” he says. “It’s really exciting for the city.” It was a powerful collaboration between the council, the city’s two universities and

“The V&A story is quite phenomenal”

Scottish Enterprise which helped bring the V&A to the city. As home to the University of Abertay, with its well-known expertise in computer games, and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee has a reputation for creative learning which impressed V&A bosses. “Tey saw a synergy there in terms of the learning environment,” he says. “Ten they saw the Tay and thought, ‘what a wonderful site to do it on’.” Almost four years in advance of the opening,

the attraction has already sparked a flood of interest from businesses keen to locate in the city. “We’re getting inquiries from retailers and hoteliers we never got before,” says

Dorward. “Te V&A is, to us, the magnet in the central waterfront that will attract a lot of businesses to it.” Te museum is expected to draw 500,000 visitors in its first year, providing a huge shot in the arm for the Dundee economy. But one of the most important benefits will be to boost the pride and confidence of local people, as well as the reputation of Dundee as a city. “Te perception of the city from other parts of Scotland or beyond may not have been as good as we think it should have been,” he says. “Tis will go a long way to changing the perception of the city. It’s not just an internal confidence it will give us, but people will look at the city in a different light, externally as well.” Te arrival of the V&A is only the latest step

in what has been an extraordinary cultural awakening in the city. Te revolution began in 1999, when Edinburgh architect Richard Murphy created the DCA, a contemporary arts hub in the city centre. After that the Dundee Rep, which dates from the thirties, became home to the only full-time resident company of actors in Scotland. Last year, the McManus art gallery reopened after lengthy renovation work and almost immediately hosted Titian’s Diana and Actaeon, an eighteenth-century masterpiece which attracted over 2,500 people on its opening weekend. Since then, over 200,000 art lovers have visited the gallery. But Dundee is not counting on culture alone

to bring about a reversal of the city’s fortunes. While the explosion of the arts will stimulate the creative industries, major developments

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