Leeds Art Gallery reopens its galleries today following its closure 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 audiovisual 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. It 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 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.
An additional highlight is the new Art Happens commission, Xanadu, by the German abstract artist Lothar Götz: 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.
Main image: Installed in Central Court, Leeds Art Gallery. Alison Wilding, Arena, 2000. Polycarbonate and cast polyurethane rubber 1200 mm x 4700 x 3700 mm. Gifted by Simmons & Simmons through the Contemporary Art Society to Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery). Photo © Jerry Hardman Jones, 2017