IF ONE architect had got his way, Glasgow’s world-famous Burrell Collection might have been built in the shape of three giant cows.

Instead, the Pollok Park museum was designed along much more traditional lines, as curator Laura Bauld explains.

“There were 242 entries for the competition to design the building and, alongside brutalist 70s architecture and mini-castles, one architect planned to build it in the shape of three cows,” she smiles. “In a parallel universe, I could be talking to you from inside an udder……”

Glasgow Times:

The bovine design plan is one of many fascinating facts revealed in The Burrells’ Legacy: A Great Gift to Glasgow, the first exhibition to be held at the museum since it reopened in March following a major refurbishment and redesign. It opens tomorrow (August 27) and entry is free.

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More than 100 extraordinary objects help to tell the story of how a couple’s private art collection became a treasured civic museum of international significance.

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Duncan Dornan, Head of Glasgow Life Museums and Collections said: “Since opening in March, the popularity of The Burrell Collection, together with positive feedback from visitors, highlights the huge affection that exists for the museum.

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“I’ve often wondered what Dr Tom Honeyman must have thought on the journey home from Hutton Castle, where he learned The Burrells were to gift their exceptional collection to the city of Glasgow. The breadth and scale of that collection, which continues to grow today thanks to the work of the Burrell Trustees, has inspired people, from its initial donation in 1944 to its refurbishment and redisplay over 75 years later.

“It seems appropriate that the first exhibition in the new Burrell reveals more about the couple themselves and the story behind the creation of the wonderful museum in which their collection is housed.” 

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Laura Bauld, who has curated the exhibition, explains: “It’s like a mini-Burrell inside the Burrell.

“We wanted to give a flavour of everything in the collection, so you will see tapestries and textiles, artworks from China, furniture, stained glass and more.”

Highlights include a fragment of a mosaic floor from a wealthy Roman’s villa, dating back to 100 BC; L’Implorante, by French sculptor Camille Claudel (the first sculpture by a woman to enter the collection); a painting, A Mallard Rising, by Glasgow Boy Joseph Crawhall and a Japanese woodcut by Utagawa Kunisada called Shoki The Demon Queller, which happens to be Laura’s “favourite Burrell item of all time.”

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“I have always loved it – he is so fearsome,” she explains. “I was always determined to get him on display, so my work is done. My dad gave my mum a poster of Shoki when they were dating, when they used to come here in the 80s."

Glasgow Times:

She adds, with a laugh: "So my whole family will be happy this is part of the exhibition.”

Laura studied art history and then museum studies at the University of Glasgow, where the Burrell Collection was the subject of her dissertation.

“Twelve years ago I was standing in a lecture hall talking about the Burrells to my classmates, and now I’m here, working on the first exhibition about their collection about to open to the whole of Glasgow,” she says, smiling. “That’s pretty amazing.”

The Burrells’ Legacy: A Great Gift to Glasgow opens on Saturday and runs until April 2023