The Showroom

Towards a City Observatory: Constellations of art, collaboration and locality

Book Launch
Tuesday 10 October 2017
Free, but booking essential. Please reserve a space here.


Presentation by Dr Simon Sheikh followed by a discussion with Kate Gray, Director of Collective, Edinburgh chaired by Caroline Woodley from Afterall, the journal of art, context and enquiry.

If the institution is, then, a machine that produces specific subjects, what can be asked of transforming, not the factory into a gallery, nor the gallery into a space of immaterial labour, but the historical observatory into a contemporary gallery?
—Simon Sheikh

In 2018, Collective will open its new home – the restored City Observatory on Calton Hill, Edinburgh. Reflecting on the long journey undertaken to reach this point, Towards a City Observatory: Constellations of art, collaboration and locality, invites artists, writers and thinkers to imagine a new kind of observatory, which brings people together through contemporary art.
The publication represents a moment of pause for Collective on the threshold of change and considers some of its pivotal projects from the past five years to inform the future. Towards a City Observatory features contributions from Charles Esche, Lesley Young, Simon Sheikh, Emma Hedditch, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Sharam Khosravi and many more of the peers who have helped to make Collective a plural entity since it was formed in 1984. The book is designed by Åbäke with a limited edition of 200 including a unique bi-colour edge.

Dr Simon Sheikh is a curator and theorist. He is Reader in Art and Programme Director of MFA Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a correspondent for Springerin, Vienna, and a columnist for e-flux Journal, New York. He is currently a researcher for the on-going Former West project, initiated by BAK in Utrecht, and working on a book about art and apocalypse entitled Its After the End of the World.

Kate Gray is Director of Collective, Edinburgh. Under Kate’s directorship the programme at Collective, has focused on co-production and transversal collaboration. Artists who have been commissioned include Hito Steyerl, Goldin and Senneby, Jesse Jones, Slavs and Tatars, Simon Martin, Grace Schwindt and Petra Bauer. She completied an MFA at Glasgow School of Art, being awarded the Fine Art prize. She is Chair of Rhubaba, artist-run gallery and studios in Edinburgh and is a visiting lecturer at Glasgow School of Art and Edinburgh College of Art MFA programmes.

Caroline Woodley is a writer and editor working in the field of contemporary art, politics and social change. She lives and works in London and is currently the publishing director for Afterall, a University of the Arts London Research Centre located at Central Saint Martins. Caroline is a Labour Candidate for the Hackney Borough Local Elections in May 2018.

A Limited bi-colour edge edition is available at the launch for the introductory offer price of £25, or by sending an enquiry to [email protected]
To order your bound copy of Towards a City Observatory for £15 visit
To download a free pdf of the book visit