Discover Edinburgh's Public Art
23 December 2021
- things to do
Edinburgh has an incredible variety of art galleries across the city, from the grand Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street to the intimate Scottish Gallery on Dundas Street, but the city is also home to a wealth of amazing public art, both by up-and-coming and world-renowned artists.
Take a look at our selection of just a few of the fantastic pieces of public art you can discover while you're out and about in Edinburgh.
The Manuscript of Monte Cassino
Found outside St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral
Known locally as “The Foot” and “The Hand”, The Manuscript of Monte Cassino is composed of three enormous disembodied body parts – a foot, an ankle and a hand. Together, they form a poignant statement on the horror and destruction of war.
Created by Edinburgh-born artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924 – 2005), the work is thought to have been created as a reaction to his experience of growing up during World War II.
Widely considered as a pioneer of British Pop Art, Paolozzi produced a huge amount of ground-breaking art. If you want to discover more, be sure to visit the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art where you can see for yourself how this revolutionary artist worked in a reconstructed display of his studio.
Found outside the Omni Centre
This photo op favourite, created by Midlothian born artist Helen Denerley, was unveiled by the Omni Centre on 27th July 2005.
The two giraffes, nicknamed Martha and Gilbert, were made from scrap metal including parts from cars and motorbikes. The inscription surrounding the sculpture is from a poem by Roy Campbell, written in 1946, and reads “'Giraffes! a People Who live between earth and skies Each in his own religious steeple Keeping a lighthouse with his eyes.”
The Lion of Scotland
Found in St Andrew Square
The mighty Lion of Scotland statue has been at his home in St Andrew Square Garden since 2010, although some of you may remember him in his former home outside the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood Park.
This impressive sculpture was hand-carved by Scottish sculptor Ronald Rae. It was carved out of pink Corrennie granite from Aberdeenshire and weighs a huge 20 tonnes!
Found at the west end of Rose Street
These beautifully detailed panels which stretch across several windows were commission by Essential Edinburgh as part of a scheme to regenerate Edinburgh's Rose Street.
They are also a celebration of the work of the so-called 'Rose Street Poets' who used to gather in the pubs along Rose Street - illustrating and featuring the words of the poem "Beachcomber" by George Mackay Brown who was associated with the Poets.
The design was initially created as a handmade paper cut by Edinburgh-based artist Astrid Jaekel before being reproduced into large steel panels. The work was shortlisted for the Adrian Henri Prize for Poetry in Art in 2013 and for the Association of Illustrators (AOI) Awards in 2014.
Found on Festival Square
This impressive work by Remco de Fouw was inspired by Neolithic Scottish stones.
Neolithic stones have been found throughout Scotland and although their use is not known for certain, many believe them to have been a form of currency, thus are appropriate for this public art work in the heart of Edinburgh's financial services district. The spheres used in this piece are made of a variety of materials including limestone, granite, stainless steel and bronze.
The Bronze Swans
Found at Edinburgh Quay, Fountainbridge
The flock of 10 bronze swans (three pictured above) which occupy this picturesque spot at the end of the Union Canal were unveiled in 2006 as part of the £60 million development of the Edinburgh Quay area.
They were designed by Glasgow-born sculptor Shona Kinloch and cast by Edinburgh company Powderhall Bronze.
Fish and Boat Sculpture
Found at the entrance to the Commercial Quay in Leith
This striking sculpture was commissioned to commemorate the redevelopment of the Commercial Quay in Leith in 1997.
It was designed by Jois Hunter and Master Blacksmith Peter Johnson of P. Johnson & Company, the artist blacksmith company which also created the Pinnacle at the Foot of Leith Walk.
Commissioned by the National Galleries of Scotland, 6 TIMES is a series of six sculptures created by Turner Prize-winning artist Antony Gormley.
Life-size cast iron sculptures of the artist's body create a trail which starts at the National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One), winding its way through Dean Village and along the Water of Leith, before finishing at the shore in Leith.
Horse and Rider
Found on Rutland Court
Tucked away on a quite corner of Edinburgh’s West End you’ll find a modern-day statue that is easily overlooked as commuters rush by on their way to work.
Horse and Rider by Edinburgh-born sculptor Eoghan Bridge shows a man seated on a rearing horse's back, holding onto the top of its head.
The Scotsman Steps
Found between Market Street and North Bridge
Running along the side of what used to be the headquarters of The Scotsman newspaper, and bridging Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, in 2010, the Fruitmarket Gallery commissioned artist Martin Creed to turn this historic stairwell into a permanent art work.
Cladding each of the 104 steps in a different marble, each with unique colours, swirls and mottlings, the artist named it ‘Work no 1059’.
Whether you love the Old Masters or cutting-edge contemporary, there's a multitude of fantastic and awe-inspiring galleries in Edinburgh to while away the hours. Discover more in our guide to Galleries in Edinburgh >