Exhibition to shine light on steel magnate’s past

Artefacts from the University’s Cockburn Geological Museum will go on display as part of major new art exhibition, The Beast.

The commission, by Edinburgh College of Art alumna, Ruth Ewan, tells the tale of Sottish-American steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie.

Featuring an animated film commissioned by the University Art Collection, and archival material related to the famous philanthropist, the exhibition will take place at Collective at the City Observatory from 25 June to 18 September 2022.

Collective Exhibition - The Beast- Ruth Ewan

Alternative history

Ewan produces work exploring social justice, radical histories and alternative systems.

Focusing on Carnegie, one of the wealthiest individuals in history, this project looks at the Victorian era of capitalism and the practices which enabled him to accumulate his wealth, including poor working conditions and large-scale environmental pollution.

Artefacts and animation

Ewan’s animated film centres around a conversation between Carnegie and a dinosaur, Diplodocus carnegii, imagining what humanity could learn from dinosaurs, the last species to face mass extinction.

The Cockburn Geological Museum has loaned artefacts for the exhibition, including plants, rocks and minerals associated with steel production.

Also on display will be the fossilised skull of an Ichthyosaur – a large prehistoric marine reptile that first appeared around 250 million years ago.

This combination of ideas and objects aims to highlight the long-term consequences of excessive industrialisation, where natural resources, geology and labour were overused for individual gain. 

Future plans

Production of The Beast was funded and supported by the University of Edinburgh Art Collection, and the work will go on to join the holdings of the institution for use in research, teaching and display.

The Art Collection has also commissioned a research document to provide students and researchers with an insight into Ewan’s methodology.

University collection

The University has been engaged with the practices of commissioning, purchasing and displaying the work of artists for nearly 350 years.

Amounting to nearly 8,000 artworks spanning two millennia, the collections core function is the support and development of research and teaching across the institution.

The Art Collection forms part of the wider Heritage and Contemporary cultural collections of the University, accessed via the institution's Centre for Research Collections.

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