By Rebecca Longbottom
Leeds Art Gallery are working with local artists and communities as part of their upcoming relaunch and how the re-opening could help Leeds in their bid for the title of European Capital of Culture 2023.
Following its closure in early January last year, Leeds Art Gallery will re-open and transform the experience for visitors in early October. After over 18 months without access to the gallery, essential repairs to the historic original roof and Victorian building are almost complete.
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 re-opening, this newly refurbished gallery will be revealed to the public for the first time, spilling new light in.
Being one of the most visited galleries outside London with just under half a million guests each year, Leeds Art Gallery has designated collections of 19th and 20th century British paintings and sculptures that are widely considered to be the best outside the national collections.
Highlights to expect from the re-opening include the Artist Room Joseph Beuys exhibition, and the gallery will showcase new acquisitions by leading American contemporary artist Martine Syms and acclaimed British sculptor Alison Wilding RA.
Although collections are nationally and internationally acquired, Leeds Art Gallery displays the importance of working with local Leeds based artists and gives the chance for community groups and schools to see the works Leeds Art Gallery are proud to keep.
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. We’re working with artists that live and work in Leeds so there’s a couple of artists who have been working with the architecture and the collections.
“Since we’ve been closed over the last 18 months, we’ve been taking works from the collection out into schools and community groups. We’ve been lending works all over the world; works have been lent from the collections that have never been lent before.”
Leeds Art Gallery are keen to reach out to communities who don’t necessarily visit them. Working and cooperating with other galleries means everyone gets the chance to experience art and culture on their doorstep.
Excited to reveal to the public what the gallery has to hold in October and what it will add to the cities culture, Leeds City Council announce the city is bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture 2023. The competition can only be hosted by the UK five times per century and was last hosted in 2008 when Liverpool won the title.
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.”
Sarah added: “One of the things we’re really keen to do is work in areas of the city we recognised a lot of people don’t come to the gallery from so we’ve done a lot of outreach work.
“It’s about the gallery not just to be in the gallery. It’s really about connecting with artists and audiences in the city.
“We also work close with other arts organisations such as Pavilion, The Tetley and East Street Art”.
The Tetley, a centre for contemporary art, works closely with Leeds Art Gallery and other galleries across the city to ensure there is always an opportunity to promote artist programmes.
Bryony Bond, Creative Director at The Tetley said: “We meet up regularly with colleagues from other galleries and are always finding good opportunities to support and cross-promote each other’s programmes and activities. We worked with Leeds Art Gallery when British Art Show 8 was on and we’ve timed our late opening to coincide with the Henry Moore Institute.”
The Tetley takes a different approach when working with local artists compared to Leeds Art Gallery. They display artists’ work who are just starting their career and some who already have experience.
Bryony added: “Showcasing the work of early career to mid-scale artists is all part of The Tetley’s goals. We want to provide a platform for artists here, alongside national and international artists.
“The Tetley plays a critical role in helping artists develop their practice by creating, curating, exhibiting and learning.”
Like Leeds Art Gallery, The Tetley works with communities who may not come to the contemporary art centre by holding clubs and creating projects inspired by their programme.
Bryony added: “The focus of our community work is largely in South Leeds and we work closely with South Leeds through offering free family workshops every other Saturday, and hold an After School Club for primary schools based in South Leeds where students take part in regular free creative activities at The Tetley.”
Throughout summer, people of Leeds will get to experience a summer festival in Victoria Gardens.
Sarah said: “During the summer we’re going to be doing a big summer festival in Victoria Gardens where we’ll be working with community groups prior to the re-opening of Leeds Art Gallery.”
Leeds Art Gallery will re-open on Friday 13th October. For further information and updates, click here.