Modern One and Two
Last October wonder | wander | women took the train up to Scotland for the second time this year to see our good friends the Milligans. They had generously offered to host me when I mentioned coming back to see the tapestries at Stirling Castle.
Of course we didn’t expect when we booked the trip that I would arrive in the middle of Storm Babet, a massive rainstorm that battered the North Coast and turned the creeks and pathways of Scotland and Northumbria into rivers.
Half the trains running that day had been cancelled. Luckily ours wasn’t, but it crept up the countryside delayed by almost an hour, advancing at a cautious pace through icy sheets of rain.
We made it safely to Edinburgh Waverley Station and I met our friends for a cozy lunch at their regular pub. Luckily the rain and wind receded after lunch and we were able to go around in their well-heated car and see a little bit of the town.
Looking for local tourist spots that were warm, dry and indoors, we drove up to the National Galleries of Scotland: Modern One and Two. Modern Two is especially famous because it hosts a collection personally donated by legendary Italian-Scottish modern artist and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi.
Paolozzi worked, taught and created art all over Europe from the war years with Surrealists like Giacometti, Jean Arp, and Brancusi, throughout the post-war modern and postmodern years to the innovative periods of the 60s, 70s and 80s, all the way through the 90s until his death in 2005.
The museum houses a recreation of Paolozzi’s studio, an artist haven of organised chaos. Books, busts, models and other treasures crowded ceiling-high shelves. Carvings and tools surrounded a small loft sleeping area.
The museum itself was a delightful doll’s house of staircases, large bright rooms and long hallways. The English Baroque building of Modern Two was once an orphan hospital called the Dean Orphanage, designed by architect Thomas Hamilton. It was the Dean Education Centre before being converted to a gallery in 1999.
The main stairwell is covered with what looks like tiny starlings, actually the shapes of honeysuckle flowers hand-painted by Turner Prize-winning artist Richard Wright.
Across the street was the original Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, with Martin Creed’s neon artwork Everything is Going to Be Alright over its facade. The gallery hosts a range of paintings and prints by European and Scottish modernists, while Modern Two was more focused on sculpture.
The beauty of Modern One is in the sculptured landscape of the front grounds, designed by architect and landscape designer Charles Jencks. It evokes the lawns and ponds of Versailles if designed millennia in the future.
Like the best modern art museums, this Northern gem was a little world of its own, swirling with mystery, beauty and strange, bold ideas. It was the perfect peek at a side of classical, cultured Edinburgh that visitors don’t often see, and an unusual refuge for storm-tossed art lovers escaping the Northern winds.