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Exciting Exhibitions to Catch in Edinburgh this Winter

Home > Edinburgh > Art | Exhibitions | Galleries | Museums | Lists
by India Tyrer (subscribe)
Avid explorer of both Edinburgh and Manchester.
Published January 9th 2019
From photography, fashion to science: must see exhibitions
Edinburgh is a city steeped in history and culture. Home to the world's largest arts festival each August, the capital is also a hub for art and culture all year-round with a collection of innovative and varied art's organisations, galleries and museums scattered across the city. It's no surprise that the city was rated the top cultural and creative city of 2017.

From national galleries and museums to independent, smaller venues, there are exhibitions to suit everyone's tastes and interests. With January upon us, the days are chilly and grey, and it's a great time to whittle away an afternoon in the warmth of a gallery or museum.

Here's a roundup of current and upcoming exhibitions being held throughout Edinburgh this January.

'In Focus: Scottish Photography'

Fans of photography can enjoy an exploration of the history of Scottish photography at the City Art Centre. From the early developments of fine art photography, through to 19th century photography to present day.

Learn how Scotland played a key part in the development of fine art photography through the work of pioneers such as David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, and how this has gone on to inspire future generations and works.

Expect the likes of Joseph KcKenzie, Thomas Begbie, Wendy McMurdo and David Williams.

Entry to this exhibition is free and it's the perfect way to pass a chilly afternoon in the city centre. 

Where: City Art Centre

When: 7th July 2018 – 12th May 2019

'Embroidered Stories: Scottish Samplers' 

The National Museum of Scotland is home to a vast array of amazing and varied collections, covering everything from animals, fashion, Scottish history to science and culture. One can easily pass a day at the museum and still have lots left to uncover. The beautiful building is home to permanent collections and exhibits, as well as exhibitions that change with each season.

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National Museum of Scotland, Grand Gallery


Until the 21st April, visitors can pop in and see a free, temporary exhibition focusing on Scottish samplers. You may know what a sampler is, but for those that don't, it is a small piece of needlework made by children - usually girls but occasional boys. The sampler contains information about the maker's family, their education, religion and interests. They were typically made by children at school as part of their education.

The National Museum of Scotland has been lent a unique collection of 70 samplers created by children between the 18th– 19th centuries. Each intricate sampler offers an interesting insight into both the child's life, as well as shifting societal changes in Scotland between this time.

Where: National Museum of Scotland

When: 26th October 2018 – 21st April 2019

'Robots' at the National Museum of Scotland

'Robots' is another of the National Museum of Scotland's temporary exhibitions that will take place from the 18th January to the 5th May.

Having seen this exhibition in the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, I can confirm that it will delight and intrigue all ages - science fanatic or not.

The exhibition charts the extraordinary 500-year journey of robots, from early mechanised human forms to present day cutting technology, to bring us the most significant collection of humanoid robots ever to be assembled.

With over 100 objects, visitors can expect to see everything from early clockwork machines to stars of the screen such as T-800 endoskeleton which was used in the film Terminator Salvation.

The exhibition costs £10, or £8 concession, and promises to teach, fascinate and entertain.

Where: National Museum of Scotland

When: 18th January - 5th May

'Storyworlds: Paper Sculptures by Edinburgh Young Artists'

2018 was heralded the Year of Young People in Scotland, so how better celebrate than showcasing some amazing young talent from across the city?

The Storyworlds exhibition comprises paper sculptures that have been curated and created by students from across Edinburgh's secondary schools. Each sculpture has been thoughtfully inspired by stories or characters from Scottish literature. The result is a group of intricate, magical sculptures each telling their own enchanting story under glass domes.

These skillfully crafted sculptures are perfect to peek into whilst exploring the stories and delights of the Writer's Museum just off the Royal Mile and will be on display until the 12th May.

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The Writer's Museum


'Liberty: Art Fabrics and Fashion'

Fans of fashion and fabrics should rush down to the Dovecot Studios fast to catch Liberty: Art Fabrics and Fashion before it ends on the 12th January.

This exhibition is a celebration of the impact and history of the iconic retailer and design studio, Liberty London and showcases over 100 garments and fabrics created over 140 years. Track changes in fashion, tastes and styles, whilst leaning a thing or two about this iconic brand.

Take a journey through time, from early garments inspired by the Far East, iconic sixties designs, the Arts and Crafts revivals of the seventies, right through to botanical prints of the current century and find out how Liberty gained their global reputation as the source of key trends.

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Dovecot Studios


'Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern'

Another great exhibition finding its home in the Dovecot Studios this winter throws light on yet another reputable and instantly recognisable designer – Orla Keily. Renowned for her fun, colourful plant-based patterns and designs, this exhibition offers a unique look into the designer's work and world with exclusive access to Keily's company archive.

We are promised an exploration of the story of pattern and how designs such as Keily's have the power to define the styles and tastes of their time.

Where: Dovecot Studios

When: 7th February

'The MacKinnon Collection'

Another vast and varied collection of Scottish photography for fans to flock to in the capital this winter comes in the form of the MacKinnon Collection which can be found at the National Portrait Gallery.

The exhibition displays an interesting selection of photographs documenting a century of Scottish life from the 1840s through to the 1940s.

The collection is one of the last to remain in private hands and covers topics from working life, street photography, sports, everyday life, family portraits right through to mountains to monuments.

Visually exceptional, informative, interesting and educational, the MacKinnon Collection is a must for any photography and history enthusiast.

Where: Scottish National Portrait Gallery

When: 16th November – 16th February

museum, gallery, national portrait gallery, scottish national portrait gallery, exhibition, photography, culture, edinburgh, scotland
The MacKinnon Collection


'Emma Hart: Banger'

London based artist Emma Hart brings her exhibition Banger to the Fruitmarket Gallery until the 3rd February – marking her Scottish debut.

Like most of the exhibitions held at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Banger is immersive, experimental and truly fascinating.

The exhibition is experienced by walking through and around Hart's work. As you make your way through the gallery you will find yourself engulfed by projected light, moving fans, and even large ceramic objects hanging from the ceiling, Banger is curious and beguiling and a must-see for modern art fans.

Where: Fruitmarket Gallery

When: 27th October – 3rd February

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Why? Culture and Entertainment
Where: Various locations around Edinburgh city centre
Cost: Varied ticket prices with many free events
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