Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum 1.jpg
LocationArgyle Street, Glasgow G3 8AG, Scotland
Collection sizeart
Visitors1,304,072 (2017)[1]
Rear elevation of the museum, looking westwards from Argyle Street, Glasgow.
The Central hall, looking towards the Pipe Organ, flanked by original electroliers.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a museum and art gallery in Glasgow, Scotland. It reopened in 2006 after a three-year refurbishment and since then has been one of Scotland's most popular visitor attractions.

The gallery is located on Argyle Street, in the West End of the city, on the banks of the River Kelvin (opposite the architecturally similar Kelvin Hall, which was built in matching style in the 1920s, after the previous hall had been destroyed by fire). It is adjacent to Kelvingrove Park and is situated near the main campus of the University of Glasgow on Gilmorehill.

Design and construction[edit]

The construction of Kelvingrove was partly financed by the proceeds of the 1888 International Exhibition held in Kelvingrove Park. The gallery was designed by Sir John W. Simpson and E.J. Milner Allen and opened in 1901, as the Palace of Fine Arts for the Glasgow International Exhibition held in that year.[2] It is built in a Spanish Baroque style, follows the Glaswegian tradition of using Locharbriggs red sandstone, and includes an entire program of architectural sculpture by George Frampton, William Shirreffs,[3] Francis Derwent Wood and other sculptors.

The centrepiece of the Centre Hall is a concert pipe organ constructed and installed by Lewis & Co. The organ was originally commissioned as part of the Glasgow International Exhibition, held in Kelvingrove Park in 1901. The organ was installed in the concert hall of the exhibition, which was capable of seating 3,000 people. The Centre Hall of the then newly completed Art Gallery and Museum was intended from the beginning to be a space in which to hold concerts. When the 1901 exhibition ended, a Councillor urged the Glasgow Corporation (now Glasgow Council) to purchase the organ, stating that without it, "the art gallery would be a body without a soul". Purchase price and installation costs were met from the surplus exhibition proceeds, and the organ was installed in the Centre Hall by Lewis and Co. The present case front in walnut with non-functional display pipes was commissioned at this time from John W. Simpson. Simpson was the senior partner of Simpson & Milner Allen, architects of the gallery building.[4]

There is an urban myth in Glasgow that the building was accidentally built back-to-front, and the architect jumped from one of the towers in despair upon realising his mistake. In reality, the grand entrance was always intended to face into Kelvingrove Park.[5]


The museum's collections came mainly from the McLellan Galleries and from the old Kelvingrove House Museum in Kelvingrove Park. It has one of the finest collections of arms and armour in the world and a vast natural history collection. The art collection includes many outstanding European artworks, including works by the Old Masters (Rembrandt van Rijn, Gerard de Lairesse, and Jozef Israëls), French Impressionists (such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh and Mary Cassatt), Dutch Renaissance, Scottish Colourists and exponents of the Glasgow School.

The museum houses Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí. The copyright of this painting was bought by the curator at the time after a meeting with Dalí himself. For a period between 1993 and 2006, the painting was moved to the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art.

The museum also contains a large gift of the decorative arts from Anne Hull Grundy, an art collector and philanthropist, covering the history of European jewellery in the 18th and 19th centuries.[6]


General internal view.
General view of one of the halls.

Kelvingrove was reopened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 11 July 2006 after a three-year closure for major refurbishment and restoration. The work cost around £28 million and includes a new restaurant and a large basement extension to its display space to accommodate the 8,000 exhibits now on display.[7] A new display layout and wayfinding scheme was introduced to make the building more visitor-friendly.[8]

Immediately after its 2003–06 refurbishment, the museum was the most popular free-to-enter visitor attraction in Scotland, recording 2.23 million visitors in 2007.[9][10] These numbers made it the most visited museum in the United Kingdom outside London.[11] In 2015 there were 1,261,552 visitors.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Kelvingrove Museum is briefly mentioned in the lyrics of the Irish ballad "Hot Asphalt", a song about Irish navvies laying asphalt in Britain. During the course of the song, the singer 'catches his death of cold', and is then taxidermied and displayed in the museum 'as a monument to the Irish making hot asphalt'.



  1. ^ "2017 Visitor Figures". Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  2. ^ "Basic site details: Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum". Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  3. ^ "William Shirreffs (1846-1902)". Glasgow Sculpture. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  4. ^ Hunter, James (2011). Macleod, Fiona, ed. The Kelvingrove Organ: A short history. Glasgow: Culture and Sport Glasgow (Glasgow Museums). ISBN 9780902752955.
  5. ^ "History of Kelvingrove". Glasgowlife. Archived from the original on 17 August 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  6. ^ Deedee Cuddihy (3 July 1993). "Gems in Scotland's cultural heritage". The Herald. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  7. ^ Ross, Peter (2 July 2006). "Palace of dreams". The Sunday Herald. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  8. ^ "Kelvingrove set to reveal £28m overhaul". Design Week. 29 June 2006. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  9. ^ "Art gallery busiest tourist spot". BBC News. 2 May 2007.
  10. ^ "Museum is top visitor attraction". BBC News. 8 May 2008.
  11. ^ Cumming, Laura (9 July 2006). "Heady Heights". Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  12. ^ "The 20 most visited Scottish attractions of 2015". The Scotsman. 2 March 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2016.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°52′6.89″N 4°17′25.82″W / 55.8685806°N 4.2905056°W / 55.8685806; -4.2905056