The City Art Centre, Edinburgh’s own public venue dedicated to championing historic and contemporary Scottish visual arts and crafts, announces exhibition highlights for 2021.

All exhibitions are free to attend, but timed slots must be booked in advance via

Further information on the individual exhibitions, including a public events programme will be announced in 2021.

Adjust / Adapt

27 March 2021 – 24 April 2021

Free Admission

The Scottish Furniture Makers Association (SFMA) and Visual Art Scotland (VAS) in partnership present, Adjust / Adapt. The exciting new members exhibition at the prestigious City Art Centre, showcases work by Makers, Designers and Artists working in Scotland with a creative response to how domestic interiors are being adapted in light of the Covid pandemic and climate emergency. The exhibition explores how our homes and outdoor spaces are working harder for occupants; as multigenerational sanctuaries, workspaces, classrooms, fitness and entertainment settings. The major new exhibition also marks the 20th Anniversary of SFMA’s founding.

Charles H. Mackie: Colour and Light 

15 May 2021 – 10 October 2021 

Free Admission 

The Scottish painter and printmaker Charles Hodge Mackie (1862-1920) was one of the most versatile artists of his generation. Drawing inspiration from French Symbolism, the Celtic Revival movement and the landscapes of his European travels, he produced oil paintings, watercolours, murals, woodblock prints, book illustrations and sculpture. This major retrospective showcases the breadth of his creative vision and talents. Featuring over 50 artworks from public and private collections, it will be the most comprehensive survey of Mackie’s work in over a century. Charles H. Mackie: Colour and Light is presented as part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2021.

Marine: Ian Hamilton Finlay

22 May 2021 – 3 October 2021

Free Admission

Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006) was an internationally renowned Scottish artist and Britain’s most significant concrete poet of the 20th century. This major exhibition focuses on the maritime theme in Finlay’s work. It was a central element of his art, and one to which he returned throughout his life.

Drawn from the artist’s estate and the City Art Centre’s collection, and including loans from the National Galleries of Scotland, this exhibition showcases artworks from across several decades, ranging from stone, wood and neon sculptures to tapestry. The show also features prints, postcards and booklets from Finlay’s Wild Hawthorn Press.

Exhibition in partnership with the Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay and presented as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21 and Edinburgh Art Festival 2021.

Islander, The Paintings of Donald Smith

29 May 2021 – 26 September 2021

Free Admission

Born in rural Lewis in 1926, Donald John Smith was, as Gray’s School of Art Principal Ian Fleming wrote in 1958 – ‘the outstanding student of his year … unquestionably a man of great ability as an artist’.  His painting acknowledged movements in Europe and America but remained resolutely local in its subject matter. From his studio on the west side of Lewis where he worked from 1974 to his death in 2014, his intense, lyrical images of island fishermen and women celebrate their indomitable human spirit. The first major exhibition of his work, this landmark display has been created in partnership with An Lanntair, Stornoway and is part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2021.

Incoming: New Acquisitions at the City Art Centre 

19 September 2021 – May 2023 

Free Admission 

The City Art Centre’s collection of fine art is recognised as nationally significant. Containing almost 5,000 individual artworks, it traces the history of visual arts in Scotland from the 17th century to present day. The collection continues to grow every year through purchases, donations and bequests – acquisitions that fill historical gaps and introduce contemporary talents. Incoming: New Acquisitions at the City Art Centre presents a selection of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and sculpture acquired within the last ten years. Featured artists will include Kate Downie, Rachel Maclean, Alison Watt, David Eustace, Peter Howson, Anthony Hatwell and Ian Hamilton Finlay.

Reflections, The Light and Life of John Henry Lorimer (1856-1936)

6 November 2021 – 20 March 2022. 

Free Admission

This, the first retrospective of his work, will explore Lorimer’s art through five key themes: light, identity, family, femininity and home. Interior scenes of elegant Edwardian family life together with light-filled landscapes are the hallmark of this technically gifted, but somewhat forgotten, artist. In 1878 the Lorimer family acquired the lease of Kellie Castle in Fife, and the castle and its grounds became the subject of many of Lorimer’s paintings. The exhibition includes works from public and private collections, the majority of which have not been on public display before.

Tapestry: Changing Concepts (working title)

13 November 2021 – 13 March 2022

Free Admission

An exhibition of work by contemporary artists associated with the former tapestry department at Edinburgh College of Art. The exhibition will explore the artistic and technical applications of the woven form in its widest context. Artists include: Jo Barker, Archie Brennan, Sara Brennan, Amanda Gizzi, Stephen Hunter, Fiona Hutchison, William Jefferies, Jo McDonald, Ann Naustdal, Matteo Rosa, Cristina Sobrino, Joanne Soroka and Lesley Stothers amongst others.

Exhibition in partnership with STAR* (Scottish Tapestry Artists Regrouped).


Councillor Donald Wilson, Edinburgh’s Convener of Culture and Communities said: “2021 looks set to be a brilliant year at the City Art Centre as we continue to welcome back visitors. This programme of free exhibitions will give visitors the opportunity to revisit enduring favourites such as Scottish painter and printmaker Charles H Mackie or discover new favourites like John Henry Lorimer. With Reflections the City Art Centre is hosting the first retrospective of his work and will feature works from public and private collections – the majority of which will be on public display for the first time.”

Councillor Amy McNeese-Mechan, Culture and Communities Vice Convener said: “The City Art Centre is one of the most accessible places in Edinburgh for art lovers and home to Edinburgh’s art collection, one of the finest in the country. We are delighted to be looking ahead to next year following a challenging 2020.  It has been a difficult year and how we’ve all had to Adjust / Adapt will be the focus of our first exhibition in the new year. Through Scottish Furniture Makers Association and Visual Art Scotland’s exhibition, visitors will be able to discover how our homes became multigenerational sanctuaries, workspaces, classrooms, fitness spaces and entertainment settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’d like to reassure people that we will continue to take measures to ensure the safety of visitors and our staff and will adhere to the latest public guidance.”


In keeping with Government advice in order to protect and maintain the safety of our visitors and staff, the City Art Centre maintains a range of safety measures and procedures throughout the venue, including a one-way system, screens at reception, hand sanitiser stations, extra barriers and signage and staff will of course be wearing face coverings while offering visitors a very warm, socially distanced welcome.

Visitors are asked to wear face coverings and to pre-book free tickets for allocated time slots in advance via