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Celebrating the colourful history of Scotland’s unicorn, new exhibition comes to Perth Museum

An unmissable exhibition debuts in Perth

Exterior of Perth Museum
Unicorn comes to Perth March 30 - September 22.

This year, get ready for something magical. Be enchanted, inspired and enthralled by Unicorn, the debut exhibition at the new Perth Museum exploring the story and cultural impact of Scotland’s national animal.

7 reasons why Unicorn at Perth Museum is the season’s must-see exhibition

Taking place Saturday March 30 – Sunday September 22, Unicorn is not to be missed.

JP Reid, senior new projects officer at Culture Perth & Kinross said, “From medieval tapestries and oil paintings, to toys, videogames and movies, the figure of the unicorn has been a familiar but shifting cultural icon for over 2,000 years. We are thrilled to be able to display a stunning selection of artworks and artefacts, including a series of newly commissioned sculptures.

With a long, complex, and often contradictory history, the Unicorn has been a popular subject for contemporary artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and activists. It is a symbol through which ideas like authenticity, belief, gender, and nationalism can be explored.” – JP Reid, Culture Perth & Kinross

It’s the first major exhibition about unicorns in the UK!

It’s the first time a museum has hosted an exhibition about these amazing creatures. Be a part of history and take in the stories and art surrounding all things unicorn.

It’s one of the first commissioned exhibitions at the newly opened Perth Museum

Side profile of newly opened Perth Museum
After a complete transformation, the new Perth Museum will open on 30 March 2024. Photo by Greg Holmes.

After a robust £27 million redevelopment project, the new Perth Museum will open its doors on 30 March 20242024. A world-class cultural and heritage institution, Perth Museum is the new home for one of the oldest public collections in Scotland. It will highlight the fascinating objects and stories that put Perth and Kinross at the centre of Scotland’s story, including the Stone of Destiny.

Designed by award-winning architects Mecanoo and funded by a £10 million UK Government investment through the Tay Cities Deal and by Perth and Kinross Council, Perth Museum is a complete transformation of the former City Hall. Hosting a range of commissioned and free collections, Perth Museum will tell the story of Perth’s place in ancient and modern Scotland.

Don’t miss your chance to see the museum’s transformation and be sure to visit its first commissioned exhibition, Unicorn.

It has some of the country’s best up and coming artistic talent

Unicorn will take visitors through history and explore the cultural significance of Scotland’s national animal.

Part of the exhibition features six newly commissioned artworks exploring the ongoing struggles faced by the LGBTQIA+ community worldwide. The exhibition features blank, life-sized horse heads that have been transformed into artworks that symbolise the theme of “Unicorn Hunting in 2023”. Featured artists include Alex Hayward, Ciaran Cannon, David Hutchison, GainAgain, Francis Macleod and Kathryn Hanna.

It has some of the world’s most fabulous unicorn artefacts

Unicorn at Perth Museum is set to explore the rich significance of this beloved mythical creature from antiquity to the present day. The exhibition examines the unicorn through art, science, social movements and popular culture.

Throughout the exhibition, visitors will discover the unicorn’s enduring presence throughout history and its role as a symbol of Scotland’s changing heritage and identity. Featuring iconic loans from around the world like the UK debut of the loaned Longhi painting The Lady and the Unicorn, this is a chance to see the famous Danny Jewel, a narwhal tusk as well as other precious and historical objects.

It honours Scotland’s national animal

Gold coin of James IV, King of Scots, Edinburgh, 1488 – 1505, obverse with unicorn, symbol of Scotland. © National Museums Scotland.

Appointed by King James I of Scotland, King of Scots, the unicorn has served as the national animal of Scotland since the 15th century. Some say that the magical beast was chosen since it is the mortal enemy of the lion, England’s national animal. Others speculate that the unicorn was chosen for its resilience and majesty. Or, perhaps the unicorn was chosen based on the fact that Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander the Great, was often depicted as a unicorn.

Whatever the reason, unicorns have prevailed as a symbol of Scotland throughout the centuries.

Today, the unicorn is still of great importance to the nation and its people. In fact, in 2023, Perth Museum called on its patrons and the people of Perth to submit their own unicorn artefacts and stories. The exhibition will feature some of these items so you can get a closer look at the importance of the unicorn to Scotland. Find out how you can get involved today.

It celebrates queer representation throughout history

The unicorn has become a symbol of  freedom and self-expression in LGBTQIA+ culture.

Full of magic and beauty, ever-present yet often hidden, the unicorn is symbol of freedom and self-expression in LGBTQIA+ culture. Gilbert Baker, an American artist and activist, created the Rainbow Flag in 1978 to serve as a symbol for the LGBTQIA+ community. Such a colourful flag needed a colourful animal to stand by it and thus, the unicorn was born as the official animal of queer culture.

Appearing on floats at parades, in marches and as a political symbol, the unicorn has become synonymous with the LGBTQIA+ community.

Unicorn delves into how this mystical and powerful beast inspires and unifies a community.

It has something for everyone

History lovers, art-buffs, culture vultures, and visitors young and old will be captivated by this exciting exhibition. It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon, a cultured-date, or a family-day out.

Learn more about Unicorn at Perth Museum and book your tickets today. Taking place Saturday March 30 – Sunday September 22.