Sunday 25 May 2014


Watching Glasgow School of Art burn, from nearly 4000 miles away via BBC, was a devastating experience, shared I know by many thousands of people. Maybe hundreds of thousands, because unlike most iconic buildings, GSA is a working school, a much used beloved place. Graduate Fran Lightbound put it best: 
It’s difficult to put into words how a building can mean so much, to so many, in so many ways. Those of us who studied in the Mack had the amazing privilege of making it ours for four years: in there, we grew as artists & as people. It was a friend, a home, a constant source of inspiration. The Mack was – and is – at the heart of so much: for GSA, and for Glasgow."
And I may add, for Scotland & internationally too. But like other much used places, people & possessions -  taken for granted. In the outpouring of lament & comment, international photographer David Eustace makes a vital point. The building's primary purpose is to educate & encourage. As he points out, GSA was founded as "an institution to create memories a force for creative spirits to go forward. All that surely is not lost in a fire? Moreover for students, there's a valuable lesson. Life is about hiccups and how we deal with them. All that GSA has offered CAN never simply be lost in a fire."
Five weeks ago I gave GSA Archives the last of my handwritten annotated drafts from 30 years art criticism. As I watched the flames rage I was glad all my photographs too were not there. My cousin, in Silicon Valley since the 1970s, emailed assuming I had "a duplicate or backup copy." Ha!  In 1979/1980 & thereafter nothing is scanned, nothing duplicated. I worked on the kitchen table scribbling in pencil, biro, 2 small children at my elbow, on tatty bits of paper. A work in progress, annotated, crossings out, telephone numbers & all. 

So now for me & all the staff & students it's a waiting game. As Eustace says, it's given us all a new, heartfelt & grateful appreciation of the fire brigade. 
WE all have our memories. So here are some of mine. 1966 first visit to the Mack; 1968 & a breathtaking Mackintosh exhibition in Edinburgh; 1980 Tony Jones as new director, 1981 Tom Joshua Cooper arrives; 1982 dinners there with Lord Gowrie, dinners in the Library with Eric Hagman & the chairman of Clydesdale Bank, meeting Duane Michaels in the Directors Office & later at the Dakota NY; making a film for STV with Bob Clyde for Cyril Gerber's 70th B-day exh in the Mackintosh Museum - amazingly saved by the Firemen. The road closed for all the 20 Degree show openings I covered for the Herald 1980-1999. The Tafners, who endowed the CRM archivist position for Peter Trowles. Curating an IBM show for 1990 in the Mackintosh Museum, which my mother attended. Setting eyes on my American husband for the first time in the Mackintosh Museum in 1996. Dugald Cameron in his office; Barbara Rae & David Donaldson in their studios; Jenny Saville, Douglas Gordon, Alison Watt as students. My son's degree show in 1999 in one of the very studio rooms, high ceilinged, beautiful, that may now be destroyed; being photographed there & in the wonderful Library by the Herald in January 2014 for my archive gift story. 
How many times have I run up & down those front steps in 45 years? How many times have u done the same

The latest hopeful news is that things inside GSA are not as bad as they could have been, without the resourceful firemen. The world famous Library is totally lost. I am told, "the good is good, the east wing is safe. The bad is appallingly bad. The library is completely destroyed. Think apocalyptic."  Water damage also an issue, a river pouring down the museum.    Library from above.  Around 200 firefighters have been involved in the operation, which at its height saw 16 appliances at the scene, the Scottish Fire Rescue Service said. But already there are promises of significant restoration money from government etc.

And never again will we take the Mackintosh building for granted - if we ever did.   
For GSA fund raising for the building - secure.

1 comment:

  1. A heart stopper. Thanks for the memories Clare.
    Lets hope your archives are intact.