1888 International Exhibition
The International Exhibition of 1888 was held in Kelvingrove Park. The Exhibition was a statement of national and local pride, and a rival to recent exhibitions in Edinburgh and Manchester. It was also the essential means of funding the much-needed new Art Gallery, Museum and School of Art.
The main temporary building of the Exhibition stood virtually on the site now occupied by the Art Gallery and Museum, facing the River Kelvin and the University.
The 1888 International Exhibition was visited by 5.75 million people and made a profit of over £40,000. The Association for the Encouragement of Art and Music in the City of Glasgow increased this amount to over £120,000 by public subscription.
Then an open architectural competition for the new building was launched in 1891. James Paton, Superintendent, was largely responsible for the brief.
The requirements were:
a central or music hall giving easy access to all parts of the building
a suite of top-lit art galleries
museum halls, some roof-lighted, some side-lighted saloons
a school of art with separate entrance (the school of art was later dropped from the scheme)
Alfred Waterhouse RA was the architectural competition adjudicator. In 1892, he declared the winners to be John W Simpson and EJ Milner Allen, joint architects, of London.
The architects described their design as ‘an astylar composition on severely Classic lines, but with free Renaissance treatment in detail’. Although it combines a variety of styles, the best description is Spanish Baroque. Indeed, the two main towers are inspired by those of the great pilgrimage church of Santiago de Compostela, in Santiago, Northeast Spain.
The building was transferred to the Town Council for completion in 1896 as the Association had exhausted its funds. The foundation stone was laid on 10 September by the Duke of York (later King George V).
The final cost was to be in excess of £250,000.
The New Building
Looking ahead, the Council decided to hold a second International Exhibition on the site, this time to celebrate the opening of the new Galleries. It was planned for 1901.
A scheme for sculpture was devised by Simpson, the Senior Architect, and George Frampton RA, the renowned sculptor.
Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife, eldest daughter of the new King Edward VII, opened both the Exhibition of 1901 and the new Art Gallery and Museum.
The new building hosted a huge loan display of mainly British art. The Central Hall fulfilled its intended long-term purpose as Sculpture Court. It featured marbles, plasters and bronzes by contemporary British and European sculptures, including Rodin.
The 1901 International Exhibition attracted 11.5 million visitors.
The profit of £39,000 from the Exhibition was set aside for the promotion of art and science in the city. This effectively became the museums’ purchase fund for the next 50 years.