Leeds Art Gallery is pleased to announce that it will reopen its galleries to the public on 13 October 2017, after a period of closure to undergo essential repairs to the original roof and the historic Victorian building.
Reopening programme highlights will include the ARTIST ROOMS Joseph Beuys exhibition, and new acquisitions by leading contemporary artists such as young American artist Martine Syms and renowned British sculptor Alison Wilding RA. The gallery will reopen with a re-presentation of the collection across the gallery that looks back over 130 years to showcase highlights from the nationally designated collection.
During the renovations, a welcome discovery was made in the form of a beautiful barrel vaulted glazed roof on one of the first floor galleries. This stunning structure had remained hidden above a false ceiling for over 40 years. Upon reopening, this newly refurbished gallery will be revealed to the public for the first time, spilling new light in and transforming the experience for visitors. This new gallery will be celebrated by showing Arena (2000), a major sculpture by Alison Wilding, which is a gift to Leeds from the Contemporary Art Society.
The ARTIST ROOMS Joseph Beuys exhibition marks an important return to Leeds for Joseph Beuys (1921 – 1986) who last exhibited at Leeds Art Gallery in 1983, and it will feature important sculptures by this influential German artist whose work and presence left a lasting legacy on Leeds. Taking place across three of the ground floor galleries, the show will present one of the last sculptures made by Beuys, Scala Napoletana (1985), along with works on paper from throughout his career. The exhibition is drawn from the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international modern and contemporary art acquired for the public by the National Galleries of Scotland and Tate through the generosity of Anthony d’Offay, and will be accompanied by a public programme of talks and events, aimed at engaging young audiences.
The gallery has always supported the work of living artists. Originally focusing on British art of the time, the collection has in the late 20th and early 21st century become increasingly international with work in a range of media from 1888 to 2017. In addition to Alison Wilding’s sculpture Arena, another recent acquisition includes A Pilot For A Show About Nowhere (2015), a two-channel video by LA-based artist Martine Syms that has been gifted to Leeds Art Gallery through the Valeria Napoleone XX Contemporary Art Society initiative (VNXXCAS). This work will be showcased at Camden Arts Centre, London until 14 May 2017, and on arrival in Leeds will form a centrepiece of the collection redisplay. Leeds Art Gallery is the first museum to receive a work through the VNXXCAS scheme that addresses the representation of female artists within public collections.
The roof repairs and refurbishment have provided an opportunity to re-present the collection across the entirety of the gallery. The new collection displays will feature works not seen for a generation – including the first opportunity to see an extensive display of watercolours by John Sell Cotman; the majestic sculpture Maternity (1910-11) by Sir Jacob Epstein; and works on paper by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. The gallery’s impressive sculptures will also be presented in collection displays across galleries on both floors featuring artists including Alexander Calder, Tony Cragg and Simon Fujiwara.
Leeds Art Gallery is a key cultural hub in Leeds with close to half a million visitors a year. Whilst the gallery has been closed it has maintained an active profile through extensive loans from its art collection to local and international galleries, as well as engaging a diverse range of audiences through external programmes, including taking works from the collection out into schools and offsite activity with communities across the city. The gallery is a fundamental part of Leeds’ artistic heritage, particularly as the city bids to be named European Capital of Culture 2023.
Sarah Brown, Principal Keeper at Leeds Art Gallery, said:
“We’re delighted to be opening Leeds Art Gallery after much-needed repair work to this beautiful building and are thrilled to present a significant programme bringing together a Joseph Beuys exhibition, new acquisitions and a stunning new commission, alongside a re-presentation of our world-class collection. We look forward to welcoming visitors to see the gallery in a new light.”
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake, said:
“Leeds Art Gallery is a wonderful and iconic element of our city’s fantastic cultural offer and we cannot wait to see the galleries open their doors to the public once again this October. Now that we are now moving full steam ahead with our 2023 European Capital of Culture bid, it is brilliant to see the return of Leeds Art Gallery which, internationally recognised and celebrated, will offer another timely reminder of why our bid is so varied and strong.”