York Art Gallery to reopen in summer 2015 following an £8 million transformation

  • Gallery to establish new Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA), displaying largest collection of British Studio Ceramics in the world
  • Opens with major new installation by artist Clare Twomey
  • New spaces to be opened to public for first time

York Art Gallery will reopen on Saturday 1 August 2015, also Yorkshire Day, after an £8 million development by international architects Ushida Findlay in partnership with leading conservation specialists Simpson & Brown, which will increase exhibition space by 60 percent and see the launch of the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA). The development of the 19th century Grade 2* listed building will create a new cultural destination and artistic hub for the region, firmly establishing York Art Gallery as a must-see destination and one of the best regional galleries in the country.

New gallery spaces will be equipped to host exhibitions showcasing more of the gallery’s nationally significant collections than ever before, as well as major touring exhibitions and blockbuster loans. The gallery’s collections include the renowned Lycett Green collection of Italian Old Masters from the 14th to 18th century. The gallery’s own works by artists such as Bernardo Daddi, Bernardino Fungai and Parmigianino will be complimented by significant loans from major public collections and contemporary commissions. Notable works by twentieth-century artists such as L.S. Lowry, Paul Nash, David Hockney, Walter Sickert, Sarah Lucas and Stanley Spencer will also be on display, as well as works by William Etty, York’s most famous artist.

New galleries on the first floor and in the original Victorian roof space, a space which will be open to the public for the first time, will become CoCA, home to the gallery’s collection of more than 5,000 examples of British Studio Ceramics from throughout the twentieth century right up to the present day. Almost 2,000 ceramic works will be on display, including star pieces by Bernard Leach, William Staite Murray, Felicity Aylieff, Lucie Rie, Hans Coper and Kate Malone. Changing displays and exhibitions will showcase the collections and archive, and a highlight will be a 17 metre long ‘wall of pots’ displayed by colour to create a rainbow effect. The gallery will also showcase the Anthony Shaw collection, on long term loan to the gallery, displayed by the collector in a domestic style setting, as it was previously shown in Shaw’s home in London.

The gallery will open with a major new commission by renowned ceramicist Clare Twomey called Manifest: ten thousand hours, which will see ten thousand handmade slipcast ceramic bowls, identical in form and colour, piled high in towering columns. The precarious nature of the stacked works alludes both to how collections grow and the challenges this presents to collectors, and to the belief that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master craftsman.

A second installation, Halo by artist Susie MacMurray, is inspired by the gallery’s collection of Italian Renaissance altarpiece painting with its intricate gold leaf. In Halo thousands of pure gold wire threads, textured to create the illusion of shimmering movement, will spring out of an eight metre wide wooden panel backdrop, casting a golden glow at the end of the gallery space. These installations are part of a varied programme of art and exhibitions to coincide with the opening.

Elsewhere, the gallery will host the exhibition The Lumber Room: Unimagined Treasures, curated and created by York based artist Mark Hearld, featuring objects from across York Museums Trust’s collections, including oil paintings, works on paper, taxidermy and social history. An exhibition will also present some of York Art Gallery’s best paintings, prints and drawings of the city spanning 300 years.

Unveiled outside will be a new artists’ garden: the space, which has never been open to the public before, will in the future be home to specially commissioned artworks and will link to new areas of the York Museum Gardens, including an Edible Wood. The exterior of the first floor extension of the building will be decorated with more than 300 double hexagon shaped ceramic tiles inspired by the unique paving on York’s streets, alluding to the unique style of paving known as ‘Stable Paviours’ or ‘Rosemary Setts’ used on numerous allies and back streets in the city.