George Wyllie has been honoured in his home city by a major retrospective exhibition opened last at a civic reception in The Mitchell Library hosted by The Depute Lord Provost of Glasgow, Baillie Gerald Leonard and attended by Rt Hon Alex Salmond, MSP, First Minister of Scotland.

Both men were united in their praise of the Glasgow-born artist, who died in May at the age of 90.
The First Minister said: “He was by any standards an extraordinary man, whose art will be familiar to many generations of Scots, and it is entirely fitting that he is recognised and celebrated with this unique survey of his work right in the heart of the community he held so dear. 

All of the major themes he so skilfully dealt with will be represented in this exhibition, be it birds, boats, spires or engines. I hope that many thousands are able to come to the Mitchell and raise a smile at artwork that is at times playful, and yet speaks to a powerful underlying message about the importance of hard work and community.”

Baillie Gerald Leonard added: “It is fitting that Glasgow should host this celebration of the life and works of one of its favourite sons and that such a detailed and extensive examination of George Wyllie’s career is held in one of the most loved and well used landmarks in the city.  

“This retrospective will enthral and enchant anyone who visits the Mitchell Library to see the hundreds of works on display and will no doubt lead to an even greater and wider appreciation of the unique talent of George Wyllie.”

George Wyllie Retrospective: In Pursuit of the Question Mark has been curated by his elder daughter, Louise Wyllie, together with Lynne Mackenzie and Jan Patience. 

The exhibition is the most comprehensive survey of the internationally renowned Glasgow-born artist’s work ever mounted and consists of almost 1000 objects. These range from his earliest drawings made for family when he was serving on HMS Argonaut in The Pacific during the Second World War, to sculptures dating back to the 1960s made from old car bumpers. 

A Bumper Dolphin, has been rescued from a second-hand shop in Dunoon and brought to The Mitchell after the owner of the shop saw a story about ‘lost Wyllie bumper fish’ in his local paper.

Councillor Archie Graham, Chair of Glasgow Life said: “The George Wyllie Retrospective: In Pursuit of the Question Mark celebrates the career of one of Scotland's best loved artists. Behind the mischief and the humour in his work was a serious intellect and real talent which Glaswegians instantly appreciated as his international fame grew.

"“George gave the world social sculptures to remember and now his creative legacy will inspire a new generation through this exhibition and an education programme.”

Louise Wyllie said: “Curating this exhibition of my father’s work has been an emotional experience. He knew about the exhibition happening before he died but it took on a different significance for us as a family after he died.

“It was very poignant for my sister and I going through everything in the family home, which included thousands of artworks, and also a lot of very personal items. We have some of these items in the exhibition, including hand-drawn Christmas cards my dad sent home to my mum and his family back in Glasgow when he was serving with the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Appropriately, he had drawn Popeye on them.”

Iain Munro, Director of Creative Development at Creative Scotland commented: “George Wyllie had a talent for connecting people with art.  As one of Scotland’s exceptional artists, his creative legacy will inspire generations for years to come, and fortunately we were able to invest in this wonderful exhibition and community projects before he passed away. The Year of Creative Scotland is about celebrating Scotland’s creativity and what better way than to recognise and celebrate George Wyllie’s work.”

The exhibition also features material which shows the process which led Wyllie to create iconic ephemeral works such as the Straw Locomotive and thePaper Boat.

Unusual items his first ever oil painting, made in 1951, called The Rescue, a cardboard box containing the ashes of the Straw Locomotive (burned in a Viking-style funeral at Springburn after being taken down from the Finnieston Crane), a ‘football team’ (plus steel ball) designed for the Euro ‘96 in Manchester and hand-drawn illustrated story books which Wyllie produced to talk out various projects, including The Paper Boat.

The Whysman Festival received investment through the Year of Creative Scotland’s First in a Lifetime programme to mount this exhibition and project-manage two community based projects; The Big Little Paper Boat Education Initiative which takes in over 90 Clydeside schools and the Big Clyde Question Project involving community groups in Inverclyde.

The Mitchell, North Street, Glasgow, G3 7DN
Until 2 February, 2013
Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm

For further information & hi-res images please contact: 
Jan Patience on


The Whysman Festival has been supported by Creative Scotland’s First in a Lifetime programme. George Wylllie Retrospective: In Pursuit of the Question Mark has been generously hosted in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow, by Glasgow Life.
* Creative Scotland is the national development agency for the arts, screen and creative industries. Our vision is that Scotland will be recognised as one of the world’s most creative nations – one that attracts, develops and retains talent, where the arts and the creative industries are supported and celebrated and their economic contribution fully captured; a nation where the arts and creativity play a central part in the lives, education and well-being of our population.
* About the Year of Creative Scotland 2012: The Year of Creative Scotland began on January 1, 2012 and is a chance to showcase, celebrate and promote Scotland’s cultural and creative strengths on a world stage. Through a dynamic and exciting year-long programme of activity celebrating our world-class events, festivals, culture and heritage, the year puts Scotland’s culture and creativity in the international spotlight with a focus on cultural tourism and developing the events industry and creative sector in Scotland. More information about the programme can be found
* The Year of Creative Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland, Creative Scotland and VOCAL.


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