Though over 5,000 miles separate the Land of Make-Believe and Merchant City, they share similarities, especially when it comes to creating movie magic. Scotland’s largest metropolis has been a stand-in for Philadelphia in 2013’s World War Z starring Brad Pitt, and more recently served as the backdrop for Gotham in the closing scene of The Batman (2022). But there is another connection to old Hollywood that may go unnoticed by the untrained eye.
Appropriately positioned down a dark alley just off the Trongate, is a neon illuminated sign spelling out the word “Empire” in reverse. This is the work of Glaswegian artist Douglas Gordon, paying homage to the English director Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece Vertigo. Gordon has hung the piece backward to challenge the viewer to decipher what is real and what is a fabrication. Empire is the name of the hotel where the character played by Kim Novak resides. (If you want to visit the original location of the Empire, you’ll have to travel to San Francisco.)
With its blinking “E,” the signage was initially installed a few blocks away in 1998. Gordon also chose to highlight the impact that the city’s prominent shipping industry had on the slave trade. Glasgow was an instrumental component of the triangular trade between the countries of Africa, the New World, and the British Empire. Though Gordon is mostly an audio-visual artist, his work can be found in galleries throughout the world.