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Leeds Art Gallery will close after 10 January for a year of essential repairs

Leeds Art Gallery announces plans for 2016 including over a hundred works from the collection on loan.

This weekend will be the last chance to see the leading touring exhibition, British Art Show 8 at Leeds Art Gallery. After 10 January when the exhibition ends, Leeds Art Gallery will close its doors for approximately a year, in order to carry out essential repairs to the original roof of the historic Victorian building. During the year, the gallery will maintain an active profile through extensive loans from its art collections and seek to engage audiences through external programmes.

Over 150 paintings and sculptures from the gallery’s nationally Designated art collections will go on loan to over 70 international, national and regional venues. During this period learning and engagement activity will carry on off-site, whilst The Picture Library will continue to be available to the public, allowing Yorkshire residents to enjoy a celebrated work of art within their own home, and a number of collection research projects will be conducted throughout the year. 

Building on Leeds Art Gallery’s already extensive loans programme, this period of closure will allow even more artworks from one of the UK’s more notable art collections to be enjoyed by people beyond Leeds, with some works going on loan for the first time to fellow galleries and museums across the world. 

Works on loan will include Edward Armitage’s huge canvas ‘Retribution’, presented to Leeds Town Hall by the artist in 1858, and William Joy’s iconic painting ‘General Gordon’s Last Stand’ both to Artist & Empire, Tate Britain’s much-applauded exhibition; Francis Bacon’s ‘Painting 1950’ to Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain and Grimaldi Forum Monaco; and no less than seven works by pioneering British painter Stanley Spencer for over a year to the Stanley Spencer Museum in Cookham, the village in Berkshire where the artist was born and spent most of his life. Additionally, for over a year, Antonio Canova’s carved marble sculpture of ‘Venus’ (1817) will travel to the artist’s home town in northern Italy, Possagno, to the artist’s studio which forms part of the Museo Canova; and Paula Rego’s larger than life 'The Artist in her Studio' to Casa das Histórias, Portugal and then to Brazil. 


Leeds Art Gallery
Leeds Art Gallery

Locally, there are still opportunities to see much-loved ‘friends’ including; several items on loan to The Hepworth Wakefield for their current exhibition Wild Girl: Gertrude Hermes and works on display in the Royal Armouries Museum, Beverley Art Gallery and The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery (University of Leeds).

The Picture Library at Leeds Art Gallery, one of the oldest picture libraries in the world, will continue to offer access to the collection. For just £72 a year people living in Yorkshire are able to choose from a wide selection of historic and contemporary art; including oils, watercolours, drawings and photographs by artists such as a Matisse, Moore, Hepworth, Lowry, Caulfield, Paolozzi or Sutherland to enjoy at home.


During 2016 Leeds Art Gallery will undertake a number of new collection research projects, delving deeper into the history and significance of the collection. A research programme funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation supports the study of British landscape painting, in celebration of the artist John Sell Cotman (1782 – 1842), one of the finest watercolour painters of the 19th century. Leeds Art Gallery holds a nationally-significant collection of Cotman’s work with almost 900 watercolours, drawings and prints in the collection, bequeathed to the city of Leeds by the artist’s biographer, Sydney Decimus Kitson. The project will form the core of an ambitious Cotman exhibition planned for the summer 2017 and will also establish a dedicated online catalogue making the Leeds Cotman Collection freely accessible to all, providing a platform for both public and scholarly interest in the art of British watercolour painting and the work of John Sell Cotman for generations to come.

Leeds Art Gallery will reopen in spring 2017 with an ambitious programme, including exhibitions and displays across the entire gallery, showcasing highlights from the nationally designated collection.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said:

“British Art Show 8 has been an unqualified success, with over 100,000 people visiting the gallery already to engage with culture and the arts in a unique and exciting way.

As the show now begins to draw to a close, it’s time for us to look to the future and focus on how we can ensure visitors can continue to enjoy Leeds Art Gallery’s magnificent collection in the years to come - and part of that will mean carrying out essential work on the gallery’s original Victorian roof which is in need of major repairs.

Last year alone, the gallery attracted more than 430,000 visitors and, as we bid to be named European Capital of Culture 2023, this investment in repairing the roof is a demonstration of our commitment to a building that is clearly part of the bedrock of Leeds’ artistic heritage.

It’s also exciting to think the work will allow us to share some of our many outstanding exhibits with other galleries, giving us another opportunity to showcase these remarkable works of art to people who may never have seen them before.”