Artist Isaac Julien, CBE, RA unveils the UK Premiere of his work Lessons of Hour at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art as part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2021. Credit Duncan McGlynn

After being cancelled last year, Edinburgh Art Festival returns to the Scottish city with over 35 exhibitions and new commissions, plus an online programme of events and digital presentations.

Running from 29 July to 29 August 2021, the 17th edition of the Edinburgh Art Festival aims to cast a spotlight on uniquely ambitious and inventive creators. With collaboration at its heart, the festival will feature a series of festival-led commissions and premieres devised and presented in close partnership with leading visual arts organisations.

“Festivals have always offered a space for gathering, and this year more than any, we are proud to come together with partners across the city to showcase the work of artists from Scotland, the UK and around the world,” says Edinburgh Art Festival Director, Sorcha Carey. “Some exhibitions are newly made in response to the seismic shifts of the past year; others are the result of many years of planning and careful research; but all are the unique, authentic, and thoughtful products of our city’s extraordinarily rich visual art scene.”

Sorcha adds: “The past year has revealed how precarious things can be for artists and creative freelancers, as well as for the institutions and organisations that support the production and presentation of their work. As our summer festival season gets underway, and we look forward to welcoming audiences safely back to the festival and our city, now more than ever, we need the space for community and reflection that art and artists can provide.”

Highlights of the collaborative programme include the UK & European premiere of Lessons of the Hour by Isaac Julien in partnership with National Galleries of Scotland; two new festival co-commissions featuring work by Sean Lynch in collaboration with Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop; and a sound installation by Emeka Ogboh with Talbot Rice Gallery.

Artist Isaac Julien, CBE, RA unveils the UK Premiere of his work Lessons of Hour at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art as part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2021. Credit Duncan McGlynn

Artist Isaac Julien, CBE, RA unveils the UK Premiere of his work Lessons of Hour at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art as part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2021. Credit Duncan McGlynn

There’s also a new approach to the festival thanks to a collaboration with Glasgow-based artist, filmmaker and programmer Tako Tall. Responding to the festival’s theme of reflection, Tako has invited artists living and working in Scotland to create new commissions for public and digital spaces.

On top of this, the festival will see the return of Platform. This annual showcase supports artists who are currently in the early stages of their careers and encourages them to make and present new work. Partner galleries across Edinburgh will also be promoting a new generation of artists, while solo presentations across the capital will give visitors a chance to discover the works of Christine Borland, Frank Walter, Karla Black and many more.

Retrospectives and major shows round off the festival, with shows including The Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure at National Museum of Scotland, Victoria & Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour at The Queen’s Gallery and Archie Brennan at Dovecot Studios.

If you can’t make it to Edinburgh Art Festival in person, don’t fret. A series of digital events, including conversations between artists and curators, bespoke tours through the programme, activities for families and community groups, plus newly commissioned work for digital spaces, will all be able to be enjoyed remotely.

Artist Isaac Julien, CBE, RA unveils the UK Premiere of his work Lessons of Hour at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art as part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2021. Credit Duncan McGlynn

Culture Minister Jenny Gilruth said: “Edinburgh Art Festival shines a spotlight on the ambitious, inventive and thoughtful work being produced by Scotland’s visual arts community. I am pleased to see that the 17th edition of the Edinburgh Art Festival has brought together over 35 live exhibitions and new commissions, including a series of creative new works by six Scottish artists supported by £135,000 from the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund.”

She added: “A further £215,000 has been awarded through our PLACE programme to provide greater opportunities for artists at the beginning of their careers. I look forward to seeing the results of the Festival’s work during this challenging time.”

For a complete look at everything taking place, head over to the Edinburgh Art Festival site.

Artist Isaac Julien, CBE, RA unveils the UK Premiere of his work Lessons of Hour at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art as part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2021. Credit Duncan McGlynn