Glasgow’s much-loved GoMA is to celebrate its milestone 25th anniversary this year with a programme of ‘GoMA at Home’ online activities, talks and workshops over the coming months.
Housed in an iconic building located in Royal Exchange Square in the heart of Glasgow, the venue opened to the public on 30 March 1996 and was formally opened by HM The Queen on 3 July 1996.
The most visited modern and contemporary art museum in Scotland, GoMA has a unique position in Glasgow as a collecting institution of contemporary art, as a civic space that is enjoyed by a broad demographic of visitors, and as a key tourist attraction.
Since opening its doors 25 years ago, GoMA has staged over 200 exhibitions with diverse artists from all over the world, as well as collecting powerful work by local, UK and international artists and developing an award-winning learning programme for all ages, abilities and interests.
GoMA remains closed at the moment due to current covid restrictions, meaning that some of the exhibitions planned to take place during the 25th anniversary year have had to be postponed with a focus instead placed on an ongoing programme of online events.
Upcoming, free online events include the At Home: Artist Talk – queer times school prints , with Adam Benmakhlouf in conversation with curator Katie Bruce on Wednesday 24 February; a series of social media posts celebrating the life and work of Alasdair Gray for the inaugural Gray Day on 25 February; a Saturday Art Club workshop on Saturday 27 February; Coffee with A Curator: Martin Craig on Friday 5 March; and a Mindful Art Session on Sunday 7 March.
When GoMA first opened, the public reaction was initially mixed, and a BBC documentary produced at the time – which is now shown in Gallery 2 as part of the Taste! Exhibition – highlights the polarised responses to GoMA in its early years.
However, visitors to GoMA exceeded the initial expected numbers and have continued to grow to around 550,000 – 600,000 each year. Some of the earliest collecting activities included works by Jo Spence, Bruce Lacey, Bridget Riley and Niki de Saint Phalle that are now recognised as key acquisitions for Glasgow Museums.
This year presents the museum with an opportunity to celebrate a significant moment in the museum’s youthful history, reflect on the work it has done, and strengthen its current innovative exhibition, learning, access and collecting activities.
In recent years, GoMA’s public programme has responded to and respected the history of the building, with the opening of the ‘Stones Steeped in History’ permanent display in 2018, reflecting on the history of the building and its ties to the Empire and Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Other recent exhibitions and subsequent acquisitions have included Douglas Gordon, Jacqueline Donachie, Hal Fischer, queer times school prints (commissioned from Jason E Bowman), Aaron Angell and Jack Knox.
In 2020 GoMA won the Big Draw Festival’s Museums & Galleries Award for the second time (following its first win in 2010 ) for its project linking drawing and wellbeing, which culminated in a vibrant display of drawings by the general public in the atrium space of the building.
Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “The 25th anniversary of Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art in 2021 is a significant milestone that allows us to reflect on the incredible and vital contribution that GoMA has made in championing Scotland’s rich history of modern and contemporary art.
“From staging insightful exhibitions by local and international artists, to the hugely popular creative workshops such as GoMA’s Saturday Art Club, and the recent work that has been undertaken to highlight under-represented communities and provide opportunities to reflect on the venue’s historical links to Glasgow’s Slave Trade, GoMA is a place that is loved by locals and visitors to the city.
“Reflecting its position as a place where people can enrich their lives by engaging with world class art and the experiences it reflects, inspiring dynamic conversations about the world we live in today, GoMA is currently developing innovative ways to respond to the ongoing global pandemic.”
From its opening in 1996 to early partnerships with Glasgay!, finding a voice through the social justice programmes (2003-9), Art Fund International (2007-12), partnerships with Glasgow International (2005 – ) and developing award winning work with socially engaged artists GoMA continues in its 25th year to champion local and international artists and address contemporary social issues, cementing its reputation as world-class museum for contemporary and modern art.