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Paper Details

Author: Nick Prior

Title: The Social Production of Aesthetic Space in the National Gallery of Scotland, 1859-70.

Year: 1996

ISBN: 1-900522-30-6

This paper addresses the socio-aesthetic relations between space, ideology and publics in the National Gallery of Scotland during its first ten years of existence. The narrative is ordered according to a hypothetical walk through the gallery to show how the institution's architecture, dącor, collection and rules of behaviour established the space as a high cultural enclave. The paper argues that the construction of a national gallery in Edinburgh sprung out of civic impulses that were neo-classical, bourgeois and enlightened in origin. The tensions inherent in these impulses were circulated in the spatial parameters of the site itself. The gallery was opened to the public, but it also differentiated this public according to its ability to play the game of art appreciation. Spatially, the gallery served to remove "low" or "vulgar" constituencies and elevated the pure, high and refined. To this extent, the National Gallery of Scotland was used by (Edin)bourgeois professional elites as a cultural resource of distinction and distanciation.

sociology