“Happy Christmas! Cards from the Ian Fleming Collection” is a small but very seasonal exhibition on now at The Scottish National Galleries Modern 2. This, as the title suggests, is from the personal collection of the late Scottish artist and lecturer Ian Fleming (1905 to 1994) that has been arranged for view with the full co-operation and support of his immediate family.
All of the Christmas cards in this collection are hand made, personal and come from not only family members, but friends and associates that Ian Fleming came to know over a long life and a distinguished career. The artists that created many of these cards read like a “Who’s Who” of 20th century Scottish art - Anne Redpath, Sir William George Gillies and Alastair Flattely are just a few of the names that you will probably recognise here.
At one level, this collection is important because it features outstanding artwork by some of the luminaries of Scottish Art, but that is only part of its importance. Here in these cards we get to see art at a very personal level. This is art not designed for the staring eyes of the public in a gallery space, but art designed as a personal gift from one friend to another, and the range of art in these cards is part of their charm. Yes, there is often the very religious or seasonal themes of Christmas illustrated in these cards, but there are also the humorous cards that give this collection much of its charm and warmth.
It is also to me worth noting that when a small and personal collection like this goes on display at a major national gallery, it is a firm statement from the gallery itself that art can be small, disposable (we are so lucky that these cards were kept over the years ) and very personal. Gone thankfully are the days where only the great works (large and small) of historical art importance were deemed worthy to be on display in national galleries. At the end of the day, it does not matter that these cards were created by fellow artists, writers, family, and friends with obvious talent, but that they were simply made by people who wanted to make and share a personal gift with friends and family at a very important time of the year to them.
Review by Tom King