‘… art can change lives and we offer an intimate encounter with art for free.’
As is now traditional, our December Bookshop of the Month takes us to Scotland and the Fruitmarket Gallery. This Edinburgh institution hosts ‘world class contemporary art at the heart of the city’, and boasts its own café as well as a bookshop.
We waylaid Allison of the Fruitmarket Gallery Bookshop in Edinburgh to ask her more about why Scotland’s capital is the perfect place to be a bibliophile!
Edinburgh must be an amazing place to be during the seasonal period, and you are located in the very heart of the city. What is the atmosphere like in the bookshop this time of year?
This is my favourite time of year in Edinburgh. Despite the fact that we only have a few hours of sunlight a day and sideways ice-rain, the city is so beautiful. The bookshop’s atmosphere is almost always affected by what the gallery is showing. This year we are exhibiting a show curated by Melissa E. Feldman called Another Minimalism: Art After California Light and Space. It explores the legacy of American West Coast Minimalism on Contemporary artists. A lot of the pieces employ light effects so the bookshop is filled with lots of colour, bright books and gifts.
The bookshop is also very influenced by our customers. We have a lot of people who come here for gifts for the person who has everything. I aim to stock a carefully curated selection of texts and gifts that are sought out from all over the world. This year we are featuring one off sculptures and pots from a studio called Arhoj in Copenhagen as well as a local maker called Peony Gent. I am especially excited about a bag made of fabric I commissioned from a maker called Ding Ding that is inspired by our current exhibition.
It looks like you have some incredible contemporary art exhibitions coming up in the gallery, such as the Sara Barker show. Can you tell us a little about how the bookshop supports the events and shows featured in the gallery?
We are a charity so every purchase you make in the shop supports the gallery. I work closely with the director and exhibition team so the bookshop is always stocked with relevant titles. The bookshop doubles as the entry point to the gallery so we run all of the events/greet every visitor/direct people to the café/tell people where the castle is. For this show we have a lot of exhibition related events which you can find on our website along with the line-up for our free bookclub for children aged 2–9, Literary Littles.
What are the top 3 books on your wish-list this December?
I always have a long list but my top three I think would be:
Sarah Gordon’s Indecent Exposures which explores Eadweard Muybridge’s “Animal Locomotion” Nudes. I took my undergraduate degree in The History of Art at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Muybridge is such a huge part of the history of Philadelphia. My Great-grandfather studied with Eakins (who worked closely with Muybridge). This book moves past the empirical side of Muybridge’s work and offers the reader a more social and contextual view of the project. I also love that it is scholarly research in historical photography.
The Another Minimalism catalogue is pretty neat. It looks at Light and Space art which emerged in California in the mid 1960’s, around the same time as the more well-known New York Minimalism, and examines how it continues to be influential today. I like it especially because it recognises the movement’s pretty impressive and hard to document interest in site-specific installation, colour, immateriality and participation, and ultimately lends insight into a lighter and more experiential Californian minimalism, a movement almost outrageous compared to New York’s austere, monochromatic mathematical abstraction.
Melissa, the curator is lovely too. Her approachability reads in her proposed new take on Californian minimalism’s impact on artists of the current generation. She enjoyably navigates the powerful but pretty much unrecognised influence of West Coast artists such as Larry Bell, Robert Irwin and James Turrell on artists working today. Also, I grew up in Los Angeles and volunteered at the Venice (beach) Art Walk every year and used to spend a lot of time in Larry Bell’s studio. So it is so nice and kind of weird to see his work here in Scotland.
Finally, AIno-Maija Metsola’s Colours. I love children’s books. We have a curated selection of design and illustration related children’s titles. I’m absolutely enamoured with Metsola’s Learning Garden series. She’s a Finnish illustrator who is best known for her collaborations with Marimekko. Her children’s books are steeped in a kind of sweet whimsy. Her frowning lions and bewildered seahorses are too funny. The colours are friendly and beautiful too. My toddler really likes the lift-the-flap part, mainly because she likes ripping the flaps off.
Dream customer? If you could choose anyone to walk through the door now, who would it be – author/artist/celebrity/big spender?
We love all of our customers. Because we’re in Edinburgh, we get a lot of neat people visiting the shop during the festival. We had Benedict Cumberbatch in this year. We also had Phil Jupitus in last week, who comes in quite often and has fantastic taste in art books. I think my dream customer would be David Sedaris. I’ve been a fan from his beginnings on the American radio station NPR on ‘This American Life’. His use of calmly delivered, wildly hysterical anecdotes and the beauty in which he writes about the making of how someone becomes who they are makes him a modern day Mark Twain. But more like the old, grouchy, hilarious Mark Twain.
Your lovely café looks very inviting! Can you tell us more about it?
It’s such a nice space. There are exciting times ahead as our café is changing hands in December and MILK are moving in. MILK already provide lovely eats around a few of Edinburgh’s Contemporary art venues – Collective, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop and Jupiter Artland, alongside their café near Haymarket Station. I am looking forward to their brunch. Who doesn’t love brunch?
Opening hours are: