by Dundee Contemporary Arts
Dundee, located in the eastern central lowlands of Scotland, was historically known for three things: Jute, Jam and Journalism. While the jute trade may have died down, jam and journalism are still going strong, and the city has added many cultural gems over the years, plus it's the UK's first (and only) UNESCO City of Design.
Of particular significance to the arts in the Scottish lowlands is Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA). Located in the heart of the city, DCA is an internationally renowned centre for contemporary art that enables audiences, artists and participants to see, experience and create. They house two beautiful large-scale gallery spaces, two thriving cinema screens, a busy print studio, an award-winning learning programme, and a packed programme of events, workshops, classes and activities. 2019 marks DCA's 20th birthday and they are spending the whole year celebrating with special events, film screenings and more.
Below are the cultural gems to be found throughout Dundee, as chosen by Helen Macdonald, Communications Coordinator at DCA.
What can we say, we’d love it if you started your Art Trail at DCA! From Sat 14 December 2019 – Sun 22 March 2020 you can see Seized by the Left Hand, an international group exhibition which takes as its starting point some of the ideas contained within American writer Ursula K. Le Guin's 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness. Then from Sat 11 April - Sun 19 July 2020 our galleries will feature the work of Douglas Gordon, focusing on his major film installation k.364.
Scotland’s first dedicated design museum and the first V&A museum outside of London, V&A Dundee is easy to spot sitting on the bank of the Tay. Designed by architect Kengo Kuma, the building houses changing exhibitions (their next exhibition, Hello, Robot. starts Sat 2 November), a gallery space full of Scottish design, a shop, restaurant and more.
Right next door to V&A Dundee is the iconic ship RSS Discovery. Discovery Point tells the story of the ship, from its beginnings in Dundee to Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition and beyond. There are galleries to explore, video and film shows to watch, plus the chance to step onboard this historic vessel.
Walking back into the city you’ll find The McManus, Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum. Offering a fascinating insight into the history of the city, The McManus houses a whopping eight different galleries in one stunning building. Inside you can find exhibits ranging from the life of early man right up to Dundee’s recent history (hello Lemmings!), as well as paintings and artworks from 1750 onwards, plus touring exhibitions.
Part of the University of Dundee, Exhibitions at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) fill four gallery spaces with exhibitions by national and international artists, designers, writers and creative thinkers. Cooper Gallery is their premier space, hosting four major shows a year as well as housing parts of the DJCAD Degree and Masters shows.
Tucked away just off Perth Road a little further up from Cooper Gallery is Generator Projects. Generator is an artist-run project and exhibition space that works with local and national artists, providing a varied programme of exhibitions and events. With their annual Members’ Show and They Had 4 Years, an exhibition showcasing work by recent graduates, plus a whole host of different projects throughout the year, there’s always something exciting going on.
Just down the road from DCA, Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre are housed in a purpose-built art space where they create and deliver a diverse programme of theatre and dance productions as well as welcoming a whole host of visiting productions including theatre, music, comedy and family shows.
Brightening up the doorways and forgotten corners of Dundee, Open/Close Dundee have created two art trails around the city centre and Stobswell area of the city. Take a look at their website to see the routes (and other hot street art spots around the city), pick up their maps from DCA Shop for £1 or sign up for one of their guided tours.
This four window gallery space is visible from the street at 9a Ward Road and provides a platform for contemporary art in a broad range of media. Free artists' talks and events are held to accompany the exhibitions, offering the public opportunities to meet the artists and hear about the issues addressed in their work.
Crowdsourced from the people who live in the city and put together by Creative Dundee, this handy city guide shares plenty of recommendations of places to explore (that don’t cost a thing) as well as restaurants, bars, shops and music venues which are all worth checking out. Take a look at the map online or pick up a free copy from venues across the city (including DCA).
For every exhibition at DCA, we programme a series of events that relate to the work on show in our galleries. From artist Q&As and live performances to reading groups and tours, all of our gallery events are free.
Sweet study spots
Dundee is full of comfortable cafes and welcoming bars where you can log on to the Wi-Fi (or log off and bury your head in a book) to get a bit of work done while also enjoying a hot or cold drink. There’s Blend Coffee Lounge, Flame Tree Café and Daily Grind for relaxed vibes, as well as fully vegan options Birchwood Emporium and Café and Marwick’s Vegan Kitchen. For spots open slightly later there’s Jute Café Bar at DCA (with a great patio area for those warmer days) and the 100% plant-based Underdog.
For those studying art, design or any subject that involves getting creative, DCA Print Studio offers state-of-the-art facilities to create print, photography and digital work with reduced student membership fees, while Dundee Makerspace offers its members 24/7 access to their creative workshop which has space, tools and resources for arts, engineering and computing projects.
Alternative and art cinemas
We don’t mean to brag, but DCA Cinema is the only independent cinema in the city! On our screens, you’ll find new releases, arthouse titles, fascinating documentaries, vintage classics, artists’ choice screenings, special cinema events and performances as well as various seasons and festivals throughout the year. Student tickets are available all day at just £5.50. As part of our 20th birthday celebrations, you can get involved with our programming by suggesting films from the past two decades that you’d like to see back on the big screen by using #helloDCA20.
Adornments for your calendar
29 February - 14 March 2020 (TBC)
This annual festival celebrates women’s rights, their qualities and their achievements through talks, exhibitions, workshops, film screenings and more. The theme for next year’s festival is Women Making Waves.
A month-long programme celebrating the diversity of design through events, activities, tours, talks, workshops, and exhibitions profiling everything from product design to illustration, fashion to service design and lots in between.
2020 edition TBA
Pecha Kucha Night Dundee
2020 edition TBA