In 2006 following a three year closure due to major refurbishment, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum of Glasgow re-opened, and within 6 months overtook Edinburgh Castle as Scotland's most popular tourist attraction.
Want to know why?
Here's the simple answer - it deserves it! Now, you don't have to tell me. Glasgow has so many outstanding attractions, so many reasons to stay a while, that to compile a top ten list and boldly place one particular attraction right at the top, is just plain silly, not least because you'll find a whole gaggle of critics with nothing better to do than to prove why somewhere else should replace it.
For me however, placing Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum proudly on top of the list is not a matter of personal opinion. For me, it's all about numbers. Who am I to ignore the fact that before it closed for refurb in 2003, it was pulling in a paltry (?) one million visitors a year, and that in only the six months since it re-opened in July 2006, the place tranformed into a proverbial magnet of epic proportions, and drew a breathtaking 2 million curious souls through its magnificent doors. Who am I to argue with that?
When it comes to museums, Glasgow just seems to get it right. And with the Kelvingrove Museum, we're talking here about a place so grand, and filled with suchtreasure, that even if you were being truly objective (and of course not as biased as myself), you would find it pretty hard to keep it out a list of top ten global attractions, not just Scottish.
Yeah OK Scott, 'calm the beans', you might say - 'are you trying to get a job there or something?'
Well believe it or not, no. Although, if anyone at the place is reading this and thinks it'd be a great idea to exhibit and pay me for my prized collection of DVDs, hey, don't wait around there, just give me a call!
So anywho. At the very least you'll have caught on by now that I consider our Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum simply above all else when it comes to Glasgow tourist attractions. We're rightfully proud of it here, given its history and the fact that it reflects how hard the City has been trying to pump lifeblood back through its heart & memory, in the process re-establishing Glasgow as one of the most magnetic tourist destinations in the world.
And for all the right reasons this amazing museum is now at the forefront of that process. My recommendation? - just go there and see for yourself. You won't be disappointed.
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has enjoyed a long history of affection from its patrons down the years.
Starting in about 1870, industrial collections were displayed at what used to be called Kelvingrove Mansion, although this later transformed into the Kelvingrove Museum which sat originally where you'll now find the skating rink in Kelvingrove Park.
Due to increased overcrowding however, a natural history wing was added in 1876. Twelve years later in 1888 (yes you guessed it, the year Celtic Football Club was born), the International Exhibition was organised at the museum to solidify Glasgow's title as the Second City of the Empire. Almost 6 million folks popped along to see it including ol' Queen Victoria herself, and the profits from that were put towards a major refurb.
After an open competition, architects John W. Simpson and E.J. Milner Allen (who came from London, I should add!) were chosen to design the new look, and by 1901 the new Kelvingrove building you see now was complete, with what some have described as a kind of Spanish Baroque style. So English architects and a Spanish construction eh? Yeah whatever - it looks so great I won't bother arguing...
...When the new building opened, more than 11 million visitors passed through its doors in the space of 6 months, and they would've seen sights as strangely out of place as gondolas & gondoliers who'd been transported for the occasion (I'm sure with their consent!) from sunny Venice to the River Kelvin.
In 1902 the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum re-opened, and continued to pull in hoardes of visitors until during the war in 1941, when the most prized items in the place were scattered in hiding around the country, which was a pretty good idea given that in the same year a German bomb blew apart Kelvin Way and caused a great deal of damage to the museum.
In 1952 the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum welcomed what remains today the most popular masterpiece in its collection, Salvador Dali's Christ of St. John on the Cross, which was bought for just over £8,000 but now would earn you tens of millions of pounds were you to take it down the Barras and start haggling. Please don't do that though - I've heard that kind of behaviour's frowned upon for some reason!
Since then the Kelvingrove has been able to get its hands on the kind of valuable treasures a dastardly pirate would drool over before swagging for himself (see below), and in 2002 the Heritage Lottery Fund announced a £12.8 million pledge for a new refurbishment. This crazy amount of cash was added to Scottish entrepreneur Tom Hunter's £5m (as thanks there's now an Education Wing in the museum in honour of Tom's father), and even more from the Kelvingrove Refurbishment Appeal, including funds kindly donated by a huge number of Kelvingrove fanatics whose names you'll now see on the main hall pillars.
As a result, Glasgow City Council was able to afford the refurb I've already mentioned, and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum now looks more glorious than ever.
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has had the ability to purchase & borrow pure hunners of valuable and sought after items down the years, and if you pop along you'll have the privilege of seeing not only Dali's masterpiece I mentioned before and the statue of Elvis you see here with me to the right (Two Kings indeed!), but also exhibits like Van Gogh's portrait of Alexander Reid (once thought to be a self portrait), the Sarcophagus of PaBaSa, Avril Paton's hugely popular Windows in the West, Mary Cassatt's The Sisters, L.S. Lowry's V.E. Day, and of course Sir Roger the stuffed Elephant, who lived in Glasgow Zoo until 1900 when he was shot for bad behaviour (sounds pretty unfair I know, but apparently his aggressive tendencies had been getting fairly dangerous).
My favourite though has to be the Spitfire plane which dangles menacingly in the main hall. Apparently it was part of the 602 City of Glasgow Squadron and had to be taken apart and re-assembled to fit into the museum. I'd love to have seen it in operation though - where's that darn time machine when you need it?!!
All these exhibits are dotted around the magnificent restored halls of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which also house a mini museum for kids (yeah, like the rest isn't!), animal and pre-historic collections and much more, and you should find that when you're drifting casually between exhibits, your breath will be taken away by the mere artistry of the building itself, its famous and massive organ (played magnificently for you for 30 minutes, 360 days a year, at 1pm Monday to Saturday & between 2.30pm and 3.30pm on a Sunday), the beautifully ornate floors & ceilings, the sheer presence of history surrounding you as you meander about peacefully.
Really, you're going to love it. Make sure you clear about two hours to see the lot, although this may be a conservative estimate should you prefer to spend some more quality time breathing in everything on display.
If you do like to take your time, you'll be pleased to know that following the refurb there is also now a (normally very busy) cafe and restaurant; a few shops for excellent souvenirs; a Study Centre with IT suite; and a History Discovery Centre, Environment Discovery Centre, and an Art Discovery Centre, each of which allows you to handle cool objects and attend workshops (again very popular so get in there early).
To be honest, if you're thinking of attending the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum anytime soon, it'd be more enjoyable for you just to turn up, put the guidebooks away for a while, and see for yourself what's there, particularly given how regularly the exhibitions change around.
Either way, as I said before you will not be disappointed, so I hope you enjoy your time there. Oh, and did I mention that admission to the place is free?
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is located in the stunning Kelvingrove Park in the West End of Glasgow.
To get there by bus (recommended as there's limited parking at the museum), jump a First Bus Number 9, 16, 18, 18A, 42, 42A or 62, which all stop directly outside. All of these services leave from Hope Street at Central Station, with the exception of the 42 which leaves from Bath Street.
You can also get the underground 'Clockwork Orange'. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a 5 minute walk from Kelvinhall Underground Station, 10 minutes from Kelvinbridge Underground Station, and the subway trains run to these stations at intervals of four to eight minutes, so if you miss one, dinnae panic there!
Otherwise, have a look at this handy map which should point you in the right direction.
The last time I went to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, I took my camera. What I didn't take? Well, what I didn't take was a camera with some life left in its batteries. Shocker, Docherty!
As such, you'll find that for the moment, there ain't much to see in the gallery. Whilst I intend on heading back there with a fully loaded camera pretty soon though, with every intention of fleshing out an otherwise skeletal and pathetic gallery, like I said before, all of this is just to give you a taste of what Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is like. To really experience what it has to offer, you should go there with a blank canvas and just enjoy it.
So check back here soon for some more images. Feel free to use the images yourself as per the usual copyright notice on my Photo Box page.
So I hope you've enjoyed my little page on the Botanic Gardens Glasgow, and that it's encouraged you to spend some more time here or otherwise jigged your memory of your last visit. In the meantime, check out our gallery!
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