From purpose-built, civic institutions to art deco breweries and repurposed mills, Leeds and its surrounding region is bursting with some of the best galleries and art centres in the North. As in cities the world over, the temporary closure of these spaces over the last few months has been an urgent reminder of just how important they and all that they offer are.
But culture has far from ground to a halt. The agility and resourcefulness that has been shown by artists and organisations in response to the restrictions imposed by lockdown has been incredible to witness. Exhibitions, programmes, even whole festivals have been reinvented for the online sphere; creative care packages delivered to local residents’ doors; historic collections brought to life digitally; and new artworks commissioned specifically for sofa-based experiences.
We won’t lie, the freedom of being able to wander around a gallery and experience works IRL is still sorely missed, however. This is why the news that many of Leeds’ most loved art institutions are on the cusp of reopening is more than welcome. It’s not quite business as usual (most places are now operating an advanced booking system, for example), so make sure you check each venue’s website for full information before visiting. But otherwise, grab some hand gel and a face covering, here’s what we know about the art galleries in Leeds so far.
Here are our picks
The Tetley, Hunslet Road, Leeds, Yorkshire, LS10 1JQ - Visit now
Housed in the 1931 art deco headquarters of the Joshua Tetley & Son brewery, The Tetley opened in 2013 and has sat at the very epicentre of the Leeds art scene ever since. Which is all the more reason why we’re delighted that the gallery is now open (Wednesdays to Sundays, 11am-4pm – book online), with exhibitions Taus Makhacheva: Hold Your Horses and Emii Alrai: The High Dam.
The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, 74 The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AH
Founded by the major 20th century sculptor Henry Moore, who claimed “there wasn’t a single piece of sculpture in my hometown” (Castleton), today, this city centre gallery boasts one of the strongest public collections of sculpture in Britain and offers an ambitious programme of related exhibitions. Sculpture-lovers will therefore rejoice in the news that the Henry Moore Institute is welcoming visitors back once again from 1 September. As in many places, a pre-booking system will be in operation, with free tickets available now.
Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, Yorkshire, LS1 3AA - Visit now
Founded in 1888, Leeds Art Gallery houses a world-class collection of 19th and 20th century British painting and sculpture, presented alongside a diverse programme of temporary exhibitions.
The gallery is now open again, Tuesday-Friday, 12-6pm and Saturday-Sunday, 12-5pm. Pre-booking not required, but you may have to queue to get in at busy times.
The Hepworth Wakefield, Gallery Walk, Wakefield, Yorkshire, WF1 5AW - Visit now
Just a short drive out of Leeds, The Hepworth Wakefield is easily one of the leading cultural highlights of the North – a claim affirmed by the Art Fund when it awarded the centre the prestigious title of Museum of Year in 2017.
Visitors have been able to enjoy its new garden, designed by internationally renowned garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith, throughout lockdown, and as of 1 August, they’ve also been invited back inside. Book a ticket ahead of your visit and enjoy six galleries worth of permanent collections and the Hepworth’s critically acclaimed Bill Brandt / Henry Moore exhibition, which has been extended until 1 November.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, Wakefield, Yorkshire, WF4 4LG - Visit now
Never fail to combine a visit to The Hepworth Wakefield with the chance to stretch your legs and enjoy modern and contemporary sculpture in the UK’s leading open-air gallery, located just a stone’s throw away. If you’ve been hungering for more nature as well as art over the lockdown period, Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the place to head. A pre-booking system is in operation and tickets are now available online.
Assembly House in Leeds, 44 Canal Road, Leeds, LS12 2PL - Visit now
Located in a Victorian textiles mill along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, Assembly House is an artist-led gallery and studios that supports early-career artists in Leeds. Its usual monthly roster of exhibitions, gigs and events has been replaced by a well-nourished digital programme of online exhibitions, screenings, live drawing workshops, wellness resources and new commissions, which will run until December 2020 while the building itself remains temporarily closed.
CLAY: Centre for Live Art Yorkshire in Leeds, 1, 2 Regent St, Leeds, LS2 7QA - Visit now
Located in the heart of Leeds, CLAY (Centre for Live Art Yorkshire) is the new incarnation of LAB (Live Art Bistro) and seeks to present some of the most intriguing and transgressive work being made in the field by artists at all stages in their career. Its usual core offering of touring performances, first showings and special live events is temporarily on hold due to COVID-19 and an alternative programme being worked out.