Leeds is the UK’s “new creative hub”, according to an article released by The Drum in November. Even Channel 4 opted to relocate to Leeds, after a massive bidding war between the UK’s most livable and forward-thinking cities. As such, it’s unsurprising that arts are thriving across the city, with exhibitions and pop-ups fuelling artists and audiences alike.
From the city’s massive, established art spaces to smaller creative hubs, we’ve highlighted some of our favourite Leeds art spots below for your delight and delectation, including a handful of the must-see art locations in the city and beyond for exciting exhibitions, both permanent and temporary.
Yorkshire Sculpture International
This festival, taking place from 22nd June to 29th September 2019, is a bit of a cheat – it stretches across Leeds and Wakefield, and isn’t a permanent art gallery – but it’s one not to miss!
Free and open to everybody, these 100 days of art will include sculpture in all sorts of forms, from exciting and innovative new works to sculptures that form a part of world-class collections. Venues taking part include Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield, Henry Moore Institute and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, but expect amazing new sculpture commissions to pop up in unexpected places all across Leeds and Wakefield!
As well as opening our eyes to lots of new art, Yorkshire Sculpture International will include an extensive programme of collaborations with schools, universities, communities, and a professional development programme for artists based in the Yorkshire region.
The old Tetley Brewery was reincarnated five years ago from one of the North’s most famous breweries to a hub for contemporary art (as well as a venue space, and a fab bar and kitchen). The stunning Art Deco headquarters of the Tetley Brewery provide grand spaces for installations, as well as workshops and events. The exhibitions are always exciting and well-exhibited in the grand halls and smaller conference-type rooms of the Tetley building.
Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, Parkinson Building
Leeds University houses the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery (inside the iconic Parkinson Building, alongside the imposing Brotherton Library), which offers exhibitions based in the University Art Collection, as well as displaying amazing treasures from the Library’s Special Collections department.
The collection includes excellent examples of British and European painting, drawing and printwork stretching from the 17th century right up to the present day, alongside other, small collections of ceramics, sculpture, miniatures, and also photographs, all for free.
Alongside innovative courses held both at Beckett and the Arts University, Leeds is a creative hub of new artists, whose course work and first exhibitions regularly pop-up around campus, as well as more broadly across the city, so keep an eye out to catch a glimpse of the next ‘big thing’.
There are many reasons to visit the stunning Harewood House, a country estate just outside Leeds built between 1759 and 1771 for wealthy plantation owner Edwin Lascelles, First Baron of Harewood. But their art collection is definitely a solid one. From a Turner oil painting commissioned directly from the artist by his patron, Edward, Viscount Lascelles, in 1797, to a selection of Chippendale pieces and one of the finest examples of hand-painted Chinese wallpaper in the world, the house is sumptuously rich, aesthetically, and well worth a visit for the art alone.
Leeds Art Gallery
Two completely separate institutions, Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute sit right alongside one another – it’d be a nonsense to visit one but not the other! The Art Gallery, over 130 years old, only recently reopened after extensive restoration. It’s home to one of the best collections of c20th British art outside of our capital city.
But they also invest in contemporary pieces, and host a dynamic programme of exhibitions, which of course includes the exciting and prestigious Northern Art Prize. As well as items in the permanent collection such as the acclaimed 1997 collection (featuring Turner, Cotman, Cozens and Girtin), they currently have a temporary exhibition on Francis Butterfield, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this Bradford-born painter’s death.
Henry Moore Institute
Central Leeds’ Henry Moore Institute sits adjacent to the Leeds Art Gallery. Local boy Henry Moore (born in Castleford) donated works to the gallery, and the temporary exhibitions held here are usually forward-thinking and thought-provoking. Current exhibitions include the first solo exhibition of the work of Senga Nengudi outside of the US, and some rarely seen sculptures and works on paper by Lucia Nogueira.
Henry Moore Institute, 74 The Headrow, Leeds LS1 3AH
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
The UK’s leading open air art gallery, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park opened in 1977. It is the perfect sunny summertime weekend activity (although it’s also great to walk around in the rain). Based in West Bretton, near Wakefield, the grounds are dotted with astounding sculptures. Its programme is made up of contemporary and modern sculpture, from Rodin and Bourdelle through to artists still alive today. Its past exhibition programme has well-represented British sculpture, in both its semi-permanent installations and exhibitions. Many fascinating sculptors such as Eduardo Paolozzi, Lynn Chadwick and Phillip King have been the subject of Yorkshire Sculpture Park solo exhibitions.
Bring a picnic on a sunny day and enjoy your sarnie amongst internationally renowned pieces of art.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, West Yorkshire
Wakefield’s The Hepworth is a nationally-renowned art gallery, and housed in a wonderful building too. Opened in 2011, the gallery launched the £30,000 biennial Hepworth Prize for Sculpture in 2015, as part of celebrations to mark its 5th anniversary.
Cited in an unlikely part of Wakefield, the building certainly makes itself conspicuous, as planes of dark grey intersect, hovering above a pool of still water below. The Hepworth’s 1,600 square metres of purpose-built gallery space house works donated by Dame Barbara Hepworth’s family, spanning from the 16th century to the present day. Works on display include sculptures by Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, LS Lowry and David Hockney, amongst a host of others.
The second Hepworth Prize was awarded to Cerith Wyn Evans on 15 November, with shortlisted artists including Michael Dean, Mona Hatoum, Philip Lai and Magali Reus. It is always worth keeping an eye on the Hepworth – you could catch a real gem.
The Hepworth, Gallery Walk, Wakefield WF1 5AW
The Gallery at 164 and Colours May Vary at Munro House
Just by the Leeds Bus Station, Munro House is a great choice for exploring some very exciting mini-exhibitions. The Gallery at 164 also happens to be sat in Cafe 164, making it the perfect prime candidate for the list below, featuring great places to combine art with satisfying a rumbling tum.
The Gallery at 164 and Colours May Vary, right across from it, are distinctly separate entities, but a visit to one isn’t complete without popping into the other. Independent retailer Colour May Vary hosts regular solo and group exhibitions in their events space, whilst Munro House hosts small but fascinating exhibitions on the café walls and in the space beyond. Recent exhibits have included a retrospective of the Film and Pop Culture Art of Matt Ferguson, this Autumn, featuring over 85 works, and the And Zarjaz! 40 years of 2000AD exhibition, where Vice Press teamed up with 2000 AD and Thought Bubble festival to celebrate forty years of the Galaxy’s Greatest comic, which featured work by some astounding artists and designers from the fields of comics and pop culture.
Colours May Vary is an independent book store and event space, but it is also a treasure trove for artists, and regularly displays prints from exciting artists, as well as exhibits.
Munro House, Duke Street, Leeds LS9 8AG
Like a little art with your coffee? Combine the two…
Leeds’ creative scene stretches into many of the independent food and drink establishments the city is famous for. If you fancy a nibble, or a drink, alongside a bit of aesthetic appreciation, there are plenty of small and exciting exhibits dotted across town.
Try the 6 week rotating exhibition at Arts on Call Lane, pick up a coffee and a look around the exhibits upstairs at Headingley’s The Bowery, enjoy a pint and the Sunday papers after a mosey around The Tetley’s amazing art space, or head just past Belgrave to The Brunswick, where a friendly neighbourhood pub with great grub is often bedecked with exhibits from local artists.There are plenty more, too – keep you ear to the ground when exploring Leeds city centre.
Leeds and Wakefield are also great hubs for artist-led schemes. East Street Arts in Leeds is a fine example. Current projects include Making art in the Gallery, an adult learning course set to help beginners and amateur artists experiment with materials including acrylics, pastels and inks, all in the inspiring surroundings of the Leeds Art Gallery.
Over in Wakefield, The Art House is a similarly artist-run initiative, established in 1994 with a vision to provide fully-accessible studio space. Over the next decade, a group of artists and art professionals worked hard to secure funding for a range of arts projects, training events and artists’ residencies.
An interview with founder of Thought Bubble Festival, Lisa Wood (part 2)
Neil Dransfield – Leeds Tattoo Expo
Compass Festival: Animating The City Of Leeds
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