Scotsman Steps

(Work No. 1059)

Located next to the Scotsman Hotel, the Scotsman Steps provide a useful connection from North Bridge to Market Street and Waverley Station below, in the centre of Edinburgh. Owned and managed by the City of Edinburgh Council, 104 steps descend through a series of levels. They were built in 1899 within an ornamental octagonal tower attached to new offices for the Scotsman newspaper and are now A-listed. Since the newspaper moved elsewhere in 1999, the steps were used less and had become unpopular with many Edinburghers because of personal safety concerns, graffiti and the smell left by late night revellers using them as a public toilet. Various attempts were made to reclaim the space for locals and tourists alike, culminating in their transformation into an artwork by Martin Creed, who clad each of the steps in a different type of marble. Commissioned by the Fruitmarket Gallery, the Turner prize-winning artist has given it the title Work No. 1059. Creed has described the work as a microcosm of the world, with emphasis on contrasting colours of marble sourced from twenty-seven different countries across Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and Europe. The project took two years to plan and execute, with the Steps officially re-opened in July 2011 by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs (b.1964). Costing more than £250,000, the project was funded by the City Council and Edinburgh World Heritage, with support from the Scottish Government, together with several generous individual and corporate donations. The transformation involved twenty-five craftsmen and also included new hand-rails, lights and gates that are now closed at night to protect the Steps.

This was not the first time the Scotsman Steps were involved with art; between the 1950s and the 1980s the winning entries in an annual competition run by Edinburgh College of Art were displayed here. Scotsman publications even used the Steps as a location for photo-shoots, with a young Ewan McGregor (b.1971) once being photographed here after an interview.

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