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Leeds Art Gallery to reopen after almost 2 years closure
Joseph Beuys, Sled, 1969. Courtesy of The National Galleries of Scotland.

LEEDS.- Leeds Art Gallery reopens its galleries tomorrow following the closure of the gallery in January 2016, during which time essential repairs to the original roof and the historic Victorian building have been made. The breadth of the collection is shown in its entirety throughout the galleries including work on paper, painting, sculpture, and audio visual works alongside each other.

During the past year’s renovations, a welcome discovery was made in the form of a barrel vaulted glazed roof on one of the first-floor galleries. This structure had remained hidden above a false ceiling for over 40 years, and is revealed to the public for the first time this week. This new space is marked by the presentation of British sculptor Alison Wilding RA’s renowned sculpture, Arena (2000), recently gifted from the Contemporary Art Society.

Marking the reopening of the gallery, the works of influential German artist Joseph Beuys (1921 - 1986) are exhibited in Leeds for the first time since 1983 as part of the ARTIST ROOMS: Joseph Beuys exhibition. Significant works - such as one of the last sculptures made by Beuys, Scala Napoletana (1985) - feature across the three ground-floor galleries, alongside works on paper and vitrines containing objects related to his performances or ‘Actions’. The exhibition is drawn from the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international modern and contemporary art jointly owned by the National Galleries of Scotland and Tate, and accompanied by a public programme of talks and events, aimed at engaging young audiences. The collection was established in 2008 through The d'Offay Donation and is displayed in museums and galleries across the UK through a touring programme supported by Arts Council England, Art Fund and Creative Scotland.

The opening programme also features the presentation of new acquisitions by leading contemporary artists, as part of Leeds Art Gallery’s continued support of living artists and their work. Recent acquisitions on show include young LA-based artist Martine Syms, whose two-channel video A Pilot For A Show About Nowhere (2015) has been gifted to Leeds Art Gallery through the Valeria Napoleone XX Contemporary Art Society (VNXXCAS) initiative. 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. An additional highlight is the new Art Happens commission, Xanadu, by the German abstract artist Lothar Gtz: a wall painting that links the upper and lower galleries, drawing the viewer up the stairs to the new light-filled renovated galleries above.

The new collection displays feature works not seen for a generation – including the first opportunity to experience 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 extensive sculptures are presented in collection displays across galleries on both floors featuring artists including Alexander Calder, Tony Cragg and Simon Fujiwara. The Ziff Gallery focuses on the first 10 years of the Leeds Art Gallery Collection, with the South Gallery focusing on the last 10 years of acquisitions.

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 are delighted that Leeds Art Gallery is open once again and transformed. The refurbishment of the original Victorian glass roof has enabled us to create light-filled first floor galleries and present the world-class collection as it has never been seen before. We have revealed the original stunning Central Court for the first time in over fifty years to create a beautiful new gallery for visitors to enjoy.”

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 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.”

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