March 1999: The McLellan Galleries, Sauchiehall Street – A Third Plan to House a National Art Gallery in Glasgow

In 1999, those of us who had a keen interest in the history of the McLellan Galleries, as well as their future,

might have had our hopes raised by an article on page seven of The Herald, on Monday the 29th of March that year.


The paper’s Cameron Simpson reported that Mr (later Sir) Timothy Clifford had:


“come up with his third plan to house a national art gallery in Glasgow.


“The ebullient director of the National Galleries of Scotland said yesterday the plan, which was at a ‘jolly

early stage’, would involve using the McLellan Galleries in Sauchiehall Street.”


Reference is made to two previous unsuccessful proposals for a National Gallery of Scottish Art: the

former Post Office building on George Square, and a new building at Kelvingrove. Clifford’s 1999

discussions with staff at Glasgow Museums did not involve using the McLellan Galleries as a

permanent home for works from the national collections, but a venue for temporary exhibitions.


At the time, the very future of the galleries was under review as Glasgow considered them to be too

expensive to run.


The article provides more information about the dilemma facing the authorities, and Clifford’s desire

to “provide a service outside Edinburgh.”


Unfortunately, the proposal was not taken forward. However, it was not the last time that the National

Galleries of Scotland would look towards the McLellan Galleries as a potential venue in Glasgow.



George Fairfull-Smith, October 2022.