Museum bosses have been forced to admit that an award-winning Perth gallery is marked for closure – after details were let slip in a council report.
Culture Perth and Kinross has been tight-lipped over the future of the Fergusson Gallery, amid growing speculation that the building could be given a new lease of life.
But the group, which manages the area’s museums and libraries, was forced to reveal its plan after the local authority published a document which mentioned an “alternative use” for the building.
The iconic A-listed gallery was launched in the early 1990s to showcase the largest collection of work by local artist John Duncan Fergusson. The museum later received paintings and costumes by Fergusson’s lifelong partner Margaret Morris.
Culture Perth and Kinross (CPK) Chief Executive Helen Smout has now confirmed both collections will move out of the building as part of the redevelopment of Perth City Hall and the Perth Museum and Art Gallery.
“With the relocation of these collections, the future use of the current building will be reviewed by Perth and Kinross Council as owners of the building, with input from relevant stakeholders,” she said.
“As the gallery will remain operational until late 2020/early 2021, the focus for Culture Perth and Kinross is to ensure an interesting and varied programme of events, exhibitions and displays which continue to engage visitors with the fantastic collections we are lucky to have in our care.”
The Courier understands that the building, a former waterworks, could be turned into a whisky-theme visitor attraction, although no decision has been taken.
Local Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser welcomed the plan. “It’s good news that the Fergusson Collection will get more exposure when the new city hall opens in 2021,” he said. “There is also a real opportunity to turn the current building into something new and exciting.
“The gallery is one of Perth’s most iconic buildings, and any future use should carry the backing of local public opinion.
“I look forward to seeing what plans are put forth for the Ferguson Gallery as the current council administration have shown real ambition with their plans so far for the Fair City.”
SNP MP Pete Wishart added: “I am disappointed that Perth could lose this familiar historical asset, but I do understand the importance of revamping our cultural offering.
“It is vital that Perth and Kinross Council ensure that this building is brought back into use as soon as possible following the collection moving to the refurbished city hall.
“It is important that Perth does not lose the Fergusson Collection and I look forward to engaging with the local authority on their plans for culture going forward.”