Glasgow School of Art Recovers from Fire with Student Show


A year after a fire destroyed Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building, 90 of the students whose degree show was prevented by the disaster are getting another chance to exhibit their work.

Students whose work was lost or damaged were given six months of studio space and living expenses, culminating in the Phoenix Bursary exhibition, writes Libby Brooks of the Guardian. They were given £315 per week and £1,000 for materials. Half stayed in Glasglow, and the other half were offered places at 21 institutions in 15 different cities including Bergen and Buenos Aires.

90% of the 170 year old building remained intact after the fire, but the library, which featured art nouveau design and original furniture, and contained rare materials, was destroyed.

Some of the works in the new exhibition deal with the fire itself, but most of the artists have created entirely new artwork that shows how much they have grown as artists in a year.

Melissa Maloco originally recreated her degree show work with soot from the Mackintosh fire, but didn’t include it in the Phoenix exhibition. She said:

This show is very different to a degree show, and that feels appropriate. No one wanted to dwell on the fire, and your work develops a lot in a year, especially as a postgraduate when you no longer have the pressures of grading and tutors.

Sean McManus’ show work, which centers on 1940s kitchen equipment, was only slightly warped by the fire and rusted by the aftermath. He said:

The materials keep the memory of what happened. I did different work on my bursary but I really wanted to exhibit this back at the art school: it was all set up last year and this feels like a good ending.

Brian Ferguson of the Scotsman quoted Sam de Santis, who ran the bursary program, about the show’s importance as a means of resurgence:

It was a weird, stressful and tiring few weeks, but ultimately it was bizarrely uplifting. There was a spirit of ‘let’s just do this.’

The bursary scheme has gone way beyond what we thought it might be when we got the initial financial support just a couple of weeks after the fire. We wanted to help the graduates make a new body of work which could potentially culminate in an exhibition.

You can’t overstate the importance of the degree show in terms of a platform. It’s been 14 months in the making to get to this point– it’s a big moment for all the graduates of the art school.

According to the BBC, the fire began after the gases from a foam canister being used by a student ignited.

The Glasglow School of Art estimates that restoring the Mackintosh building could cost as much as £35 million. Scottish ministers, the UK government, Brad Pitt, and Peter Capaldi (a former student) have started a fund that aims to raise £20 million of that sum. Recovery and restoration are expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

The Phoenix Bursary exhibition will take place in the Reid Building, which is the art school’s modern wing, writes Aftab Ali of the Independent. Works include paintings, photography, video, multimedia installations, sculptures, and interactive models.