Curator Alison Brown  pictured at the launch of an exhibition celebrating the 150th birthday of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Kelvingrove Museum
Curator Alison Brown pictured at the launch of an exhibition celebrating the 150th birthday of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Kelvingrove Museum

Mackintosh pulls in more visitors than ever before

Charles Rennie Mackintosh venues and attractions in Glasgow recorded more visitors in 2018 than ever before.

More than 1.1m people visited Glasgow Mackintosh venues – which include The Lighthouse, Scotland Street School Museum, Mackintosh Queen’s Cross, House for an Art Lover and Mackintosh House at The Hunterian, University of Glasgow amongst others – between January and November last year; reflecting an 8% increase in footfall compared with the same period in 2017 and a 30% increase on 2016.

2018 was a milestone year for Mackintosh heritage partners in the city and beyond, with Mackintosh 150 – a year-long programme of events and exhibitions – celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth and incredible architectural, artistic and design legacy of one of Scotland’s great cultural icons.

Born in Glasgow on 7 June 1868, Mackintosh is globally regarded as one of the most creative figures of the 20th century and a pioneering influence in Europe’s art nouveau movement.

The figures have been welcomed as a strong indicator of the success of Mackintosh 150 and the enduring appeal of Mackintosh in Glasgow following a difficult year for the city.

In June, a devastating fire ripped through the Mackintosh Building at The Glasgow School of Art for a second time in four years, forcing the school to have to close its popular visitor centre and Mackintosh walking tours programme.

As well as commemorating his remarkable achievements, Mackintosh 150 has been the springboard for the implementation of Glasgow’s ambitious new 10-year Mackintosh Plan to 2028 – which seeks to promote and recognise Mackintosh as Scotland’s national architect – with the leaders of the city’s Mackintosh buildings, collections and organisations coming together to form a senior operations group, managed by Glasgow Life.

The plan aims to safeguard Mackintosh’s legacy for future generations; inspire more young people to take an interest in art and design; and promote his unique portfolio to more international visitors, enabling the economic contribution of tourism in the city to grow.

With a target of attracting one million more overnight leisure tourism visits over the next five years, the significance of Mackintosh is one of the principal drivers of Glasgow’s Tourism and Visitor Plan to 2023.

Curator Alison Brown pictured at the launch of an exhibition celebrating the 150th birthday of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Kelvingrove Museum

Key highlights from Mackintosh 150 over the past 12 months have included:

Charles Rennie Mackintosh – Making the Glasgow Style

A major temporary exhibition of Mackintosh’s life and works, featuring several works that had never been displayed publically before or seen in Glasgow for more than 30 years alongside key loans from The Hunterian, The Glasgow School of Art and the V&A in London. Having attracted more than 60,000 visitors to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum between March and August, the exhibition will be going on tour to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool from 15th March to 26th August 2019 as part of a partnership between Glasgow Museums and National Museums Liverpool. A beautifully illustrated book of the exhibition, written by Glasgow Museums’ curator Alison Brown, also sold out its first run of 5,000 copies.

Mackintosh at the Willow

The Willow Tea Rooms Trust completed its four-year, £10m Mackintosh at the Willow project. This has restored Miss Kate Cranston’s original tea rooms on Sauchiehall Street – designed by Mackintosh in 1903 – to their former glory and created a world-class Mackintosh attraction in the heart of the city, featuring an exhibition, visitor centre, tea room and gift shop. Having been unveiled to the public in July, the venue was officially opened by Prince Charles in September and has attracted 50,000 visitors in its first five months.

William Chambers x CRM and The Hill House at The Lighthouse

An exhibition by Glasgow-based and leading UK milliner, William Chambers featuring his autumn/winter 2018 collection of hats inspired by Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style attracted 30,000 visitors to The Lighthouse’s Mackintosh Centre during its 12-week run from 1st August to 27th October; a 23% increase in visitors to the centre compared to the same period in 2017.
Similarly, a separate exhibition, The Hill House at The Lighthouse, featuring interiors from The Hill House in Helensburgh which Mackintosh designed in 1904, brought in 23,000 visitors between 4 August and 24 September; a 51% visitor increase compared to the same eight weeks in 2017. Overall, The Lighthouse has recorded a 22% year-on-year increase in visitors to more than 438,000 to the end of November 2018.

Museum of the Moon at Mackintosh Queen’s Cross

An extraordinary 7m diameter art installation, Museum of the Moon made its debut in Scotland at Mackintosh Queen’s Cross from 11th May to 24th June as part of Mackintosh 150 and the Take Me Somewhere Festival. A touring artwork by UK artist Luke Jerram, a series of events including specially commissioned music, film, talks and performances from artists inspired by the moon allowed more than 11,000 visitors to experience Mackintosh Queen’s Cross during the six weeks of the programme; surpassing the total number of visitors to the venue in 2017.

The Light Pavilion at Glasgow Central Station

Scott Jarvie at the unveiling of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh inspired design ‘Light Pavillon’ in Glasgow’s Central Station (Photo: SNS)

Standing 15ft high and more than six-feet wide, the Light Pavilion is situated on the main concourse of Glasgow Central – Scotland’s busiest train station with 100,000 daily commuters. Commissioned by Glasgow Life and created by Glasgow-based designer, Scott Jarvie, this stunning artwork consists of two seating areas that support an elliptical grid and combines traditional fine woodworking craftsmanship with cutting-edge modern manufacturing techniques. Housed under Central’s magnificent glass roof, the Light Pavilion draws on Mackintosh’s magnificent stained glass panels and ingenious use of geometric pattern to bring the space alive with light, which changes with the movement and location of the sun throughout the day.

The Great Big Mackintosh Bus Tour

A special edition of Glasgow Museums’ popular Great Big Heritage Bus tours, more than 2,500 visitors travelled on a fleet of vintage buses provided by the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust on 11 September around a route comprising eight Mackintosh venues each offering a programme of free, family-friendly Mackintosh-inspired arts and crafts activities, tours and talks. A participant poll found that nearly half (46%) had an interest in Mackintosh while 48% wanted to visit a Glasgow attraction that they had never been to before.

Go Glasgow app launch

To help residents and visitors discover more about Mackintosh’s world-famous portfolio, Glasgow City Council developed the Go Glasgow app. Available freely for Apple and Android devices, the app connects with an innovative network of Bluetooth beacons installed at several Mackintosh venues, including Scotland Street School, The Lighthouse and Mackintosh at the Willow. When walking around the city, each beacon communicates with the app when in range to reveal the story behind the building as well as provide Mackintosh news and event updates and a map of all of the city’s Mackintosh venues; ensuring a seamless and joined up journey for visitors.

The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Express

In March, Virgin Trains named one of its Pendolino trains the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Express. Adorned with Mackintosh’s trademark moustache on the front and the name displayed in Mackintosh lettering on plaques on either side of the driver’s cabin, the CRM Express was spotted up and down the country along the length of the West Coast Mainline, with passengers who took the best selfies with the train receiving tickets to the Making the Glasgow Style exhibition at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It was the first time in more than 20 years that Virgin had named a train in Scotland. Two other trains were previously named Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1982 and 1996.

Mackintosh statue unveiling

Celebrating the life of one of Scotland’s legends

To mark the 90th anniversary of his death on 10 December, a 9ft (2.7m) tall bronze statue of Mackintosh on a 6.5ft (2m) plinth and weighing three tons (3.05 tonnes) was unveiled in Glasgow by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the city’s Lord Provost, Eva Bolander in December. A collaboration between Sanctuary Scotland Housing Association, the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council to mark the completion of a £60m housing regeneration project in Anderston, the statue was designed by Kelpies sculptor Andy Scott and shows Mackintosh sitting on one of the famous high-backed chairs he designed for Glasgow’s Argyle Street Tea Rooms.

A wider programme of dedicated Mackintosh 150 events, exhibitions, seminars, talks and tours has also taken place at Mackintosh House at The Hunterian, House for an Art Lover, Scotland Street School Museum and Mackintosh Club in Helensburgh throughout 2018.

Councillor David McDonald, chair of Glasgow Life and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: ‘The incredible legacy of Charles Rennie Mackintosh is part of the fabric of Glasgow and his buildings, art and design are of international significance so it was only right that we marked the 150th anniversary of his birth and his place in our shared history with something very special.

‘The overwhelmingly positive response we’ve had to Mackintosh 150 over the past year, backed by a record number of visitors to Mackintosh venues and events in Glasgow and beyond, confirms the huge interest and affection there is for him both at home and globally.’

Stuart Robertson, director of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, said: ‘In a year that we have celebrated Mackintosh’s 150th birthday we have seen some wonderful events and activity including a major new exhibition at Kelvingrove and the spectacular Museum of the Moon installation at Mackintosh Queen’s Cross.

‘The restoration of Mackintosh’s only surviving Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street has been another highlight and a wonderful achievement by the Willow Tea Rooms Trust, while work has begun to conserve and secure the future of The Hill House in Helensburgh, but the catastrophic fire in June that destroyed the Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art has been a devastating blow to the world of Mackintosh.’

Jim Clarkson, VisitScotland’s Regional Leadership Director, said: ‘Mackintosh 150 shows what can be achieved through collaboration, and we were delighted to play our part with a £40,000 award from the VisitScotland Growth Fund to support the marketing campaign. It’s exciting that we can look forward to further tourism success in 2019 inspired by the touring Mackintosh exhibition when it opens in Liverpool in March, and the pull of the new ‘boxed’ Hill House opening at Easter.’