2011 sees the unveiling of a major new public artwork by Turner Prize winning artist Martin Creed for the historic Scotsman Steps. Commissioned by The Fruitmarket Gallery, Work No.1059 is an impressive feat – 104 steps leading from the Scotsman Hotel on North Bridge to Waverley Station and The Fruitmarket Gallery on Market Street, each step clad in a different colour of marble.
Martin Creed is an artist of international reputation, who makes work of the highest quality. His work is generous, direct and convincing, with an economy of means that belies the complexity of its affect. In 2001, he won the Turner Prize with Work No. 227: The lights going on and off. His recent exhibition Down Over Up at The Fruitmarket Gallery was one of the highlights of the 2010 Edinburgh Art Festival.
The Scotsman Steps were built in 1899 as part of the Scotsman Building for the Scotsman newspaper. The Steps are contained in an octagonal stone tower and form a pedestrian link between Edinburgh’s old and new towns. The Steps were somewhat dilapidated, and have been refurbished by Edinburgh City Council and Edinburgh World Heritage. Creed’s sculpture forms a key addition to the refurbishment.
Work No.1059 sees Creed re-surfacing the Scotsman Steps with different and contrasting types of marble from all over the world, creating a visually spectacular, beautiful and thoughtful response to this historic artery. Creed describes the project as a microcosm of the whole world – stepping on the different marble steps is like walking through the world, the new staircase dramatising Edinburgh’s internationalism and contemporary significance while recognising and respecting its historical importance. This is both a typical Creed idea, involving as it does the direct engagement of the public in a work whose simplicity belies its conceptual and architectural complexity, and an appropriate response to the particular situation of the Steps. Built into the fabric of Edinburgh, this new work will become a new and joyful part of the experience of the city for both inhabitants and visitors alike.
Edinburgh Art Festival runs from 4 August – 4 September.
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Martin Creed Work No. 1059, 2011. New Commission for the Scotsman Steps.
Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Copyright: The Fruitmarket Gallery. Photograph: Gautier Deblonde.