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Inverleith House - The Art Newspaper Letter

To whom it may concern

I was surprised to read in The Art Newspaper how internationally renowned Edinburgh artspace Inverleith House had apparently been 'saved' from closure. Simon Milne, the publicly accountable Regius Keeper of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, where Inverleith House is situated, claimed that “There was a rumour that we are not going to do art anymore...that was never the case.” Milne repeated his claims in the Herald newspaper on September 15th 2017.

Milne's claims directly contradict the statement RBGE were forced to make in October 2016 when details of the closure were leaked to the press. The statement said that “Inverleith House will no longer be dedicated to the display of contemporary art, and RBGE is looking at options for the alternative use of the building.”

In an interview in the Herald on October 19th 2016, Milne was quoted as saying that Inverleith House was unable to “wash its face” financially. Milne also said that “These are hard financial times for everyone and we couldn't afford to sustain it, and at the moment we have to focus on our core programmes, which are botany and horticulture.”

Milne's claim that Inverleith House couldn't 'wash its face' financially was discredited by the Arts Working Party set up by the Scottish Government to look at Inverleith House's future. The report also recommends that Inverleith House host four exhibitions a year. Milne says there is likely to be two exhibitions a year. This directly contradicts the AWP report.

Judging by the defensive tone of his recent attempts at middle-management Newspeak, Milne is clearly a man in denial of his own destructive actions. This leaves his masters at the Scottish Government with a dilemma. Either all recommendations of the AWP report are taken on board by RBGE and implemented in a way that any competent publicly accountable body should do; or they ignore those recommendations and allow Milne to carry on regardless with his bumbling, Dad's Army style of mismanagement.

Either way, Milne's position is clearly untenable, and he must resign. Only when he and his fellow middle managers have been put out to grass can the job of saving Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery really begin.

Neil Cooper
Writer and critic

This is an unedited version of a letter that appeared in The Art Newspaper in November 2017. I was invited to write the letter in response to an article that appeared in the September 2017 issue, in which claims were made that Inverleith House had been 'saved', despite all evidence to the contrary. The letter was edited, presumably for space and tone, although it also turned the 'G' in Scottish Government from upper to lower case.


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