Leeds Art Gallery reopens to the public after undergoing restorative work on its roof for nearly two years. Marking the reopening, the gallery presents the works of Joseph Beuys, drawn from the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international modern and contemporary art, and on display until January 2018. The exhibition focuses on the titular German artist whose works are as multifaceted as was his persona.
Most active from the 1960s through the 1980s, Beuys advocated for an “extended definition of art” during times of both radical social upheaval and reactionary conservatism, when new artistic interpretations were, in turns, in and out of vogue with mainstream conceptions. Beuys believed in the idea of social sculpture as a gesamtkunstwerk– art that utilises, or attempts to embody, multiple methodologies – and being essential in effecting positive social and political change. He acted upon this ethos through varying artistic forms, such as sculptures, drawings, paintings, performance art or a combination of these in experimental fashion.
The products of these efforts are featured across the museum’s three ground-floor galleries, and include artefacts like lesser known paper-based illustrations and items relating to his various performances. Significant works like Scala Napoletana (1985), a sculpture crafted near the end of Beuys’s life, are prominently featured, complemented by a public programme of talks and lectures aimed at engaging young audiences and detailing the ways Beuys irrevocably altered the topography of the avant garde world.
Further to to the landmark exhibit, Leeds opens its doors to provide access to a bevy of other artworks by modern and contemporary artists, including Alison Wilding’s sculpture Arena (2000), positioned beneath the museum’s newly discovered and exposed barrel-vaulted ceiling; Martine Syms’ two-channel video installation A Pilot For A Show About Nowhere (2015), gifted through the Valeria Napoleone XX Contemporary Art Society initiative; Sir Jacob Epstein’s sculpture Maternity (1910-1911); and an extensive collection of watercolours by John Sell Cotman. 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 spaces above.
Joseph Beuys is at Leeds Art Gallery from 13 October. Find out more at www.leeds.gov.uk/artgallery.
1. Lothar Götz, Detail of Xanadu, Victoria Staircase, Leeds Art Gallery. Courtesy the artist; Photo Credit Jerry Hardman-Jones.