Welcome back to Leeds Art Gallery
Words by Lauren Entwistle
LAG is back, folks. The gallery, whose collection of 20th century British Art has been recognised by the government as a “collection of national of importance” has been shut following extensive repairs to the original Victorian roof. It’s set to reopen on Friday 13th October, where for the first time in a generation visitors can see the stunning glass ceiling that has been transformed into a new gallery. It will feature a new major exhibition by legendary artist Joseph Beuys and a stunning new wall painting, “Xanadu” commissioned for the iconic Victorian staircase by Lothar Götz.
It’s safe to say that the gallery is a staple of Leeds Life. As it’s so important to our culture, we thought we’d share some seriously interesting facts on the illustrious history of the place and give you the lowdown on what’s changed…
The gallery was originally built between 1886–88 by architect W. H. Thorp, as an extension to the Municipal Buildings that now house Leeds Central Library and is grade II listed. Over its lifespan the place has been no stranger to renovations, with 2007 marking major changes that gave us the magnificent Victorian tiled hall, which now serves as a café, bookshop and link between the library. A further Art Library has been added, which also includes a ground floor lecture theatre that welcomes a number of events and speakers over the year.
But it’s not only the gallery itself that has history. The grounds where it sits, Victoria Square, has been historically used for rallies and demonstrations – often roping the gallery in due to its raised steps, which make excellent speakers’ dais. Henry Moore’s sculpture, Reclining Woman: Elbow (1981) sits in front of the entrance, making quite the looming figure as tourists and art enthusiasts pass. As the Gallery is Council-funded, admission is free – making this staple visitor’s space accessible to anyone of any background and age.
Any gallery worth its salt needs to boast quite the artistic repertoire – and the LAG comes up trumps. It has held a number of works from famous local artists, such as sculpture by the aforementioned Henry Moore and also Barbara Hepworth. Even Damian Hirst’s infamous lamb in formaldehyde (titled Away From The Flock) has proudly stood (floated?) in its halls.
But sculpture and modern works aren’t the only things that the LAG loves – its collection of traditional fine art is well worth making the trip down. From those labelled as renowned painters to newly emerging talent, Leeds Art Gallery happily showcases them all, making it the perfect spot to discover or rediscover a cultural favourite.
The Artist Rooms Exhibition:
From the date of its grand re-opening, the LAG will be exhibiting “ARTIST ROOMS: Joseph Beuys” until the 21st January 2018. Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) was a prominent political and social activist and educator, as well as an accomplished sculptor. This new exhibition marks an long-awaited return to the city by the artist, who last displayed his pioneering work at the Gallery in 1983. Teaming up with the Tate Gallery and National Galleries of Scotland, the exhibition brings together sculpture and drawings from the year 1950 onwards, drawn from their collections.
So whether you’re a seasoned art fanatic or just a bit of a novice, it’s worth heading down and seeing what Leeds Art Gallery does best. After all, we’ve missed it over the past few months of renovations – and absence makes the heart grow fonder.