Richard Demarco records his life story as he celebrates 75th birthday
The remarkable life story of Scotland’s arts impresario Richard Demarco is to be captured for future generations of artists, historians and the British public as part of the British Library Sound Archive’s National Life Story Collection (NLSC).
The recording is being sponsored by the Scottish Arts Council and will form part of the NLSC’s Artists’ Lives project, which is developing an extensive collection of stories from leading 20th and 21st century British artists in order to provide future generations with a unique insight into how the visual arts in the UK have developed over the past two centuries.
Demarco’s enthusiasm and drive for supporting and promoting Scottish arts has made him one of the most influential figures in the Scottish arts world. For the recording Demarco, who celebrates his 75th birthday this weekend, will recount stories from more than fifty years as an artist, gallery and theatre director, teacher and art patron as well as providing countless anecdotes of his experiences of working in the arts throughout the world.
Born in Edinburgh in 1930, Richard Demarco’s reputation as a leading exhibition and theatre director began when he helped found the Traverse Theatre in the city in 1963. Since then, he has been one of Scotland’s most influential advocates for contemporary art through his work at the Richard Demarco Gallery and the Demarco European Art Foundation, as well as his professorship at Kingston University in London. His contributions to contemporary art internationally has been recognised on numerous occasions, receiving the Polish Gold Order of Merit, the Cavaliere della Republica d’Italia, the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres de France and the Order of the British Empire.
Currently, Demarco is working on the Skateraw project which will provide a home for his extensive archive at the Skateraw farm land in East Lothian. Demarco’s archive is a comprehensive record of the activities of the Richard Demarco Gallery and the Demarco European Art Foundation over a period of forty years and consists of contemporary artworks from around the world; rare art books, posters, catalogues and correspondents with artists and galleries; and unique photographs of artists and artistic events in progress.
Richard Demarco says: ‘I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with innumerable artists throughout my career and presenting their work, often within the context of the Edinburgh Festival. These artists represent an international family and it is my responsibility through the recording for the British Library Sound Archive to tell their stories and why they committed themselves to a cultural dialogue with Scotland.
‘I am indebted to the Scottish Arts Council for making this possible particularly when, at long last, I can work on my archive within the inspiring setting of Skateraw. I regard this as the best possible birthday present for anyone, who is fortunate enough, to reach 75!’
Amanda Catto, Head of the Visual Arts at the Scottish Arts Council, says: ‘Ricky Demarco is such a remarkable and much-loved figure in Scotland’s arts scene and his influence both in Scotland and internationally should never be underestimated. With everything that he has achieved, it is astounding that at 75, he still shows the same passion and dedication to his work that he always has. Ricky is constantly attending openings, events and exhibitions, generating support for the numerous projects he is still involved in, particularly in generating support for the Skateraw project. His contribution to Scotland and the UK arts world has been hugely significant and his recording for the British Library will be an invaluable addition to the collection.’
The Richard Demarco recording will sit in the archive alongside recordings by other Scottish artists Eduardo Paolozzi, George Wylie and Ian Hamilton Finlay as well as leading UK arts figures from the 20th century including Eileen Agar, Michael Rothenstein and Harry Weinberger.
Mel Gooding, Chairman, Artists’ Lives Advisory Committee, said: ‘Richard Demarco is someone we have long wanted to include in Artists Lives, both because he is an artist in his own right and because he has been one of the most significant animateurs of international art in these islands during the last fifty years. He was responsible for bringing a number of highly significant Eastern European artists to Britain, most notably Paul Neagu, and was the first person to bring Joseph Beuys to these shores. The British artists he has represented in his gallery are myriad and his support for many of them has been vital; for instance he showed Patrick Heron in Edinburgh when Patrick was at his most neglected. There is nobody with any record comparable to Demarco’s.’
Notes to editors
- The Scottish Arts Council (www.scottisharts.org.uk) champions the arts for Scotland, investing over £60 million from the Scottish Executive and National Lottery funding to support and develop artistic excellence and creativity throughout Scotland.
- A typical life-story recording is made over several sessions and lasts approximately eight hours. The recordings are mostly made at the artist’s studio or home and are more akin to informal conversations than to a standard interview, allowing plenty of opportunity for digression and anecdotes.
- The Artists’ Lives Collection is accessible at the British Library’s National Sound Archive, at the Tate Archive and at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds. For further information on the Artists’ Lives project, call 020 7412 7404 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issued by: Scottish Arts Council