Glasgow Garden Festival 1988

Daniel Buren Untitled: 170 Bollards
Daniel Buren Untitled: 170 Bollards 1988

Glasgow Garden Festival stemmed from a proposal for a new urban park to be built from scratch on a 100-acre site on a former industrial quayside and shipyard. The winning proposal was selected from three bids submitted for consideration, announced in October 1984 and scheduled for launch in 1988.

The original bid was initially set for delivery for 1989, but the department for the environment moved the launch date forward by twelve months to sit within the two-year interval between each of the five National Garden Festivals.

‘Since Liverpool in 1984 and Stoke in 1986, the visual arts have played an important part in garden festivals. It has been the aim of the Glasgow Garden Festival to similarly bring an exciting collection of works by contemporary artists to integrate with the 100 acres of gardens and landscaping of the site.’

Isabel Vasseur
Looking south Finnieston Crane
Garden site looking south from Finnieston Crane
Looking south west
Site looking south west

The senior design consultants on the project were Gillespies and Partners of Glasgow. George Mulvagh of Gillespies was appointed the senior architect for the site. George Mulvagh was mindful of the relatively short period involved in totally re-landscaping the former industrial site.

It was clear that given its location within the surrounding urban street plan, their response should be about creating an urban park that would include an imaginative treatment of the exposed southern bank of the River Clyde.

Middle Dock reconstruction
Middle Dock reconstruction
Steel work to reconstruct the new quayside
Steel work to reconstruct the new quayside

Restoration of the quayside opened up the potential for the visual art programme to be set in and on the river, as well as defining a significant amount of newly reclaimed green space. And while the visual arts content of the garden festival was not conceived until 1986, once Isabel Vasseur had been appointed the commissioning process moved along at a pace, aided by Julia Radcliffe.

‘There is nothing new about artists’ involvement in landscape and garden design… However since 1945, with the revelation of the work of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, it was realised that there existed a new demand for three-dimensional work to be placed in parks and open spaces.’

Isabel Vasseur

Isabel programmed the creative commissioning and fund-raising target for a budget of 800,000 GBP. The visual art element of the garden festival project took two years from its initiation until completion in 1988.

Names of proposed artists and designers were gathered by Isabel and Julia and the final selection of their individual proposals for the visual art programme was overseen by a steering group consisting of representatives from the Scottish Sculpture Trust, Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Scottish Arts Council and Art in Partnership (Scotland).

This ensured that more than fifty percent of the artists involved were Scottish and not particularly well known outside of their home country. The festival represented a rare opportunity to survey the strength of Scottish sculpture along side internationally known talents at the time.

Sir Alfred Gilbert Eros
Sir Alfred Gilbert Eros 1892 (cast 1987)
The festival featured installations by the following artists and designers:
Maurice Agis
Artist’s Flags
Kevin Atherton
Robert Bruyninckx
Jim Buckley
Sjoerd Buisman
Daniel Buren
Marc Chaimowicz
Doug Cocker
Vairi Corr
Richard Deacon
Ian Hamilton Finlay
Karen Forbes
Raf Fulcher, Elizabeth Tate & George Carter
Sir Alfred Gilbert
Alisdair Goulay
Richard Groom
David Kemp
Jake Kempsall
Shona Kinloch
Patricia Leighton
Jo Lewington
Alf Loehr
Hew Lorimer
Martha Macdonald
Tracy MacKenna
Dhruva Mistry
Henry Moore
Peter Noble
Eduardo Paolozzi
William Pye
Ronald Rae
Colin Rose
Arran Ross
Mario Rossi
Sophie Ryder
Benno Schotz
Louise Scullion
Michael Snowden
Linda Taylor
Theatrecraft Workshops
William Turnbull
George Wyllie
Scottish Arts Council
Henry Moore Foundation
Gulbenkian Foundation
The Association of Business Sponsorship of The Arts
Clyde Port Authority
Cummins Engines
British Shipbuilders Training Ltd
British Steel

British Shipbuilding Training Ltd were instrumental in fabricating several of the installations at the Glasgow Garden Festival, including the steel components for Richard Deacon’s Nose to Nose, Beginning to End 1988

Art in the Garden
The accompanying publication was
Art in the Garden.
Click here for details
Photography by: David Hazel and Richard Learoyd