This enjoyable talk from a York Art Gallery representative explained the £8m renovation of the fine Victorian building. The project will “interpret” (as the gallery’s mission statement claimed) the grand Victorian spaces. One of the major changes is the additional floor being built into one of the tallest Victorian rooms, allowing for more artwork to be displayed. It is certainly a risk considering the building is listed.
What is instantly clear is that the project needs a lot more funding – not to mention the initial stages of building to kick-start the renovation. It is universally known that public funding for the arts is being severely cut. The Arts Council earmarked £3.5m from the local budget. The renovation was originally (in the speaker’s words) “bumped up” the local council’s agenda after a private donor entailed his estate to the York Art Gallery. The entailment covers £2m of the renovation. It is obvious that most of the funding will derive from private donations: it perhaps attests that the arts are becoming increasingly pushed off the agendas of local government. The gallery’s limited funds were most apparent when the speaker suggested the struggle to acquire contemporary works. Their art fund last year was a mere £100,000.
Indeed, the renovation is clearly overdue: the ramshackle storage units for the gallery’s 1000 paintings, 270 paper artworks and 500 sculptures was built in the 1970s. For years the gallery has used pieces of foam to prevent valuable works of art have been rubbing together (damaging some original frames) as they are all piled in back-to-back. It’s a crying shame and the refurbishment of the private spaces of the gallery will no doubt be a worthwhile investment – for the health of the works themselves. The speaker mentioned the scratches done to the varnish of the Ramsay portrait, ‘Mrs Morrison’, by visitors meaning that the painting will now be glazed. The art stores seem to be the priority at this stage, perhaps more so than the gallery’s display spaces. This is seemingly justified, considering the current stores have had leaks and dust problems from the air conditioning unit which is astonishingly also in the store. Judging by the pictures in the presentation, it is a sorry state of affairs. The renovation is “preventative conservation”, the speaker said – conservation to “minimise the risk of damage and deterioration.” The new stores will boast roller racks for easy access and glass cabinets for sculptures.
Other changes include a balcony area for visitors and an extension of the existing toilets, both of which anticipate an increase in visiting rates which the speaker suggests is based on the popularity of the Hockney exhibition last year.
The public cost, as well as financial, is incurred in that the York Art Gallery will be closed for two and a half years from December this year. Thirty-four works will go on tour around Yorkshire. Many will be exhibited in three long exhibitions at St. Mary’s gallery. Four paintings will go to the National Gallery, and three to the Tate. Some may be exhibited at Fairfax House and most will sit in deep storage for the coming years.
Though it is a high price to pay, the gallery is in desperate need of attention. It is sure to be worth it in two and a half years’ time.
Today’s mural painting along the walkway to Vanbrugh Paradise allowed me to unleash my forgotten artistic side. Stretching the length of the covered walk way, this blank canvas was open to anyone and everyone who walked passed fancying their hand at a little light relief in the form of art. It is perhaps one of the most obvious and easiest ways to get people involved with ‘community art’, and it certainly gets some great results, and let’s face it, who doesn’t love getting down and dirty with a paintbrush?!
By the time I had stumbled across the mural (there were three of them in between posts) one was beautifully painted by members of the AAW team, depicting a fun and naïve illustration of campus, complete with the obligatory duck. Having seen this, I was slightly apprehensive to add to the work as I haven’t picked up a paint brush since A-Level, and although competent I was painfully aware that it takes me a long time to come up with anything of artistic value when put on the spot.
So there I was, feeling nostalgic with my sparkly pink (yes, I know…) paint, ready to pounce on the canvas. And what did I decide to draw? A flower. I wish I could have come up with something better, but I just couldn’t, I got too caught up with the excitement of pinks, blues and purples, that I fell shamelessly back into the groove of a twelve year old. Luckily I was with a friend who did just that too, so at least I could feel very immature with someone else.
This activity I think really epitomises the aim of the week, it’s so simple, yet so much fun. I thoroughly enjoyed my twenty minutes of slapping some paint onto a piece of fabric, in the vain hope that it could be classed as artistic genius. Alongside my flower I did write a very pretentious quote about something to do with art being the elimination of the unnecessary, in many ways, I really do hope that gets covered up by some other child-like flower too, but hey, I was trying to fulfil my History of Art title and cliché.
The mural will be up for the remainder of the week, so next time you walk down Vanbrugh way, cast your eye over it and seek out all the ducks, bears, hearts and shameless flowers. You might even spot the odd masterpiece or two.
Bringing together SASSY, The Norman Rea Gallery and The Art History Society, Arts Awareness Week is running throughout week 8 with the desire to enlighten and inspire students through all things arty. An exciting week of activities ranging from extreme knitting to a chic art auction set to the dulcet tones of jazz, this week promises to be a great way to kick start your summer of relaxation. The three societies are aiming to bring awareness of the arts to campus, involving all students with activities, not just those studying History of Art and the like. The Zahir shall be covering the events all week long, the first of which was the launch party, held at the Norman Rea Gallery.
There is always an exciting atmosphere at the Norman Rea, wine flows freely and the art is usually very enjoyable; it is a hubbub of artiness, therefore it seemed the perfect place to launch AAW. The current exhibition, ‘Catalyst’ is their summer exhibition which is open to all students and members of the wider community. Pieces are submitted and then selected by a board from the gallery- York’s own version of the Royal Academy summer exhibition. Pieces ranged from large oil canvases of a mother and daughter’s relationship, to smaller, intricate glass works depicting Langwith’s transition from HesWest to HesEast. A catalyst is something which stimulates a change, creating metamorphosis from the old to the new; all of the works on display here plot this transformative theme. A particular highlight was Kat Bashford’s ‘Untitled’ which hung like bunting across the gallery space, with each panel depicting her housemates mimicking a pose captured of them when they were younger. It is a reflective work which highlights a personal transition from childhood to adulthood.
The Launch Party provided a platform on which the rest of the week can rise from. Tickets for various events were sold and pink post-boxes to submit your SASSY postcards could also be found. Speaking to organisers, AAW really does hope to be fun and informative and a perfect way in which to make everyone aware of the art around them. This week hopes to be a good one, so maybe you should all get involved- you never know, you might become quite the art connoisseure