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Demarco goes down on farm

July 18 2005

In what he is describing as a “major challenge to architects” the Edinburgh art impresario, Richard Demarco, is to open an exhibition of his archive in a grain store in an East Lothian farm. The 900 sq m barn will house an archive which includes around 250,000 photographs, 10,00 slides as well as canvases and sculptures. “I have seen too many arts organisations build galleries that overwhelm their collections. This space has a ‘wow’ factor but the art will be able to survive here,” said Demarco.
The barn has been built for the archive within sight of the Torness Nuclear Power Station by the owner of Skateraw Farm, Johnnie Watson. After hearing a Radio Scotland programme in which Demarco described his archive languishing, Watson offered to build the barn for free. “I thought here’s a guy in Scotland of international significance, who’s worked tirelessly to promote Scotland and his archive is in boxes. I granted him a year’s free rent as a present for his 75th birthday.” he said.
The opening of the archive coincides with what has been described as a “third revolution” in the rural economy, as subsidies for food production are discontinued and farmers move towards stewardship of the countryside. “This is rather an extreme form of diversification, but why not bring a supposedly urban interest onto a working farm?” said Watson. Diane Lewis of the Department of Architecture at Cooper Union in New York, called the project “a template for the ideal 21st Century gallery.” Daily trips to the archive will be organized in August and a 3-day symposium in “housing the arts in the 21st century” will take place in September. However, Watson warned that he would be unable to continue his support longer than November. “It is up to the nation to decide whether they think a farm is a good place for intellectual inquiry, education and the arts then fine, “ he said.

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