Should you be wondering what’s spiking interest outside York Art Gallery….

Steve Messam’s inflatable installation Portico, from a distance looking like flickering flames consuming York Art Gallery, Exhibition Square, York. Copyright: York Art Gallery

WHAT exactly is that orange spiky inflatable thing nesting on York Art Gallery’s frontage all of a sudden?

The answer is Steve Messam’s Portico, one of the shortlisted works for the Aesthetica Art Prize 2022 exhibition that opens today.

The County Durham environmental artist’s temporary installation exploits colour and scale, “creating a moment of interruption in the familiar”, in the manner of These Passing Things, Messam’s series of installations for the National Trust at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, near Ripon, from last July to October.

Messam’s bold and large-scale installations “uncover layers of narrative within the landscape, drawing on existing uses of the land and architecture, reflecting an understanding of the geological, cultural and agricultural practices used to shape it”.

Messam says: “Portico changes the way people look at York Art Gallery, temporarily transforming the front of the building and the way people use the space. You can see it from the city walls, the open-top buses, and you can come sit and have your lunch outside and enjoy it too. I love how many people have been stopping to take photos already.”

Cherie Federico, Aesthetica Art Prize curator and director, says: “As a curator, installing Steve Messam’s Portico is truly inspirational. The marriage between the historic and contemporary creates a feeling of surprise, awe, and contemplation.

“You start look at the building with fresh eyes and the gallery is transformed. Portico is a surprise and makes you feel good. The bold colour and spikes ignite the imagination.”

York Museums Trust is urging people to share their photos of Portico by tagging York Art Gallery and Aesthetica Magazine on Instagram and Twitter.

The winners of the Aesthetica Art Prize – York’s international contemporary art competition, now in its 15th year – were announced last night when Baff Akoto won the main prize and Yukako Tanaka received the Emerging Artist prize.

Running until September 18 in one of York Art Gallery’s ground-floor galleries, the 2022 exhibition by the 20 finalists invites audiences to explore, discover and engage with themes from our rapidly changing world.

This year’s finalists hail from Argentina, France, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Great Britain and the United States, and their works is equally diverse, spanning painting and drawing; photography and digital art; three-dimensional design and sculpture; installation, performance and video art.

On show are works by winners Akoto and Tanaka and fellow finalists Messam; Sophie Dixon; Elise Guillaume; Rebecca Lejić-Tiernan; Sarah Maple; Guen Murroni; Bart Price; Jason Bruges Studio; Sara Choudhrey; Akihiro Boujoh; Ulf König; Marcus Lyon; Ellen Carey; Gjert Rognli; Omar Torres; Ingrid Weyland; K Young and Terrence Musekiwa.

Morgan Feely, senior curator at York Art Gallery, says: “It’s a pleasure to host the Aesthetica Art Prize 2022. I hope people will be inspired by the transformation of the exterior of the gallery and come in to see the full stunning exhibition, which is free to see.

“This year’s Aesthetica Art Prize runs alongside our new exhibition Body Vessel Clay: Black Women, Ceramics & Contemporary Art. Together, they show our commitment to celebrating new art at York Art Gallery.”

Gallery opening hours are 11am to 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday. Admission to the Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition and the gallery’s permanent collections is free.

Exit York Museums Trust chief executive Reyahn King to be National Trust for Scotland’s director of heritage properties

Reyahn King: Leaving her post as chief executive of York Museums Trust after seven years . Picture: Richard Kearns

REYAHN King is to step down as chief executive officer of York Museums Trust to be the National Trust for Scotland’s director of heritage properties in a summer return to her birthplace.

Reyahn has been in post since September 2015, leading the independent charity that cares for the City of York’s collections and operates York Castle Museum, Yorkshire Museum, York Museum Gardens, York Art Gallery and York St Mary’s.

As CEO, she has steered York Museums Trust through one of the toughest periods in its history, when facing the need for lockdowns in the Coronavirus pandemic.

During her seven-year tenure, Reyahn has achieved great change for the trust. Under her leadership, she introduced a new vision and mission that puts audiences and communities at the heart of its work, while strengthening the charity’s fundraising activity and generating increased revenue from commercial activities.

York Art Gallery has presented such public exhibitions as the Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years ceramics and chart-topping Leeds band Kaiser Chiefs’ award-winning fusion of art and sound, When All Is Quiet, as well as championing experimentation in Strata- Rock- Dust- Stars.

Alongside this step change in the public programme, Reyahn oversaw the opening of two new permanent galleries: Jurassic Yorkshire at the Yorkshire Museum and Shaping The Body at York Castle Museum.

Cocktail Party, 1989, from last year’s Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition at York Art Gallery

Reyahn will leave a lasting legacy for York Museums Trust, having overseen the acquisition of the St Mary’s Abbey 13th-century Limoges Figure of Christ and the Ryedale Roman Bronzes, soon to go on display at the Yorkshire Museum in April 2022. She worked with City of York Council, stakeholders and the public to develop a compelling vision for York Castle Museum.

Reyahn has been a leading figure within the museum sector championing inclusion, diversity and equality. She has championed the inclusion of diverse and underrepresented artists within the public programme, with exhibitions such as Sounds Like Her and The Sea Is The Limit. and has led a significant internal inclusion, diversity and anti-racism culture change programme at York Museums Trust.

As chair of the York Cultural Leaders Group, Reyahn led the development of York’s Culture Strategy, which sets out to “create a more collaborative, higher-profile cultural city that truly benefits residents”.

Reyahn says: “It has been a joy and a privilege to lead the amazing staff at York Museums Trust and to be part of York’s cultural scene. I’m thrilled to be joining National Trust for Scotland at a time when NTS is doing such important work for Scottish culture, heritage and nature.”

James Grierson, York Museums Trust’s chair, says: “Reyahn has been a wonderful chief executive, modernising the organisation and culture of York Museums Trust, bringing in some great new talents, enriching our collections and staging some important and inspiring exhibitions.

“She led the leadership team’s highly professional response to the enormous challenges of the last couple of years and, notwithstanding the shadow the pandemic has caused, leaves the trust in good heart.

“The richness of experience she has had in York will, I am sure, be put to very effective use with the National Trust for Scotland and, while my fellow trustees and I will be sorry to lose her, Reyahn leaves behind a significant legacy, and one of the most exciting jobs in the sector, and I’m confident that her successor will be very well placed to take York Museums Trust on the next stage of its journey.”

Kaiser Chiefs band members at the December 2018 launch of their When All Is Quiet: Kaiser Chiefs In Conversation With York Art Gallery exhibition, winner of the Museums + Heritage Award for Partnership of the Year 

Phil Long, chief executive of the National Trust for Scotland, says: “The National Trust for Scotland’s portfolio of properties is the foundation of all that we do.  Caring for them also means caring for the stories of Scotland and enabling everybody to find out about and be inspired by our shared heritage.

“That’s why Reyahn’s appointment is so important for the trust and, given her track record of success with York Museums Trust and other organisations, we are delighted that she will be joining us to bring to the trust her experience and insight.”

Recruitment for Reyahn King’s successor in York will begin this spring.

Reyahn King: the back story

AS chief executive of York Museums Trust, Reyahn has strategic and operational responsibility for museums, an art gallery, botanic gardens, scheduled monuments and Museums Development Yorkshire.

Before moving to York, Reyahn had been head of the Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, director of art galleries at National Museums Liverpool and head of interpretation and exhibitions/masterplan at Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery.

Reyahn is an experienced leader who brings people together to develop new visions for culture and heritage. She is on the board of Culture Perth and Kinross and is thrilled to be returning to work in the country of her birth as the National Trust for Scotland’s director of heritage properties from this summer.

Passionate about diversity and equality, Reyahn began her career as a curator and programmer who produced exhibitions notable for their relevance to a wider, more diverse range of audiences, such as curating the ground-breaking Ignatius Sancho: An African Man Of Letters at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Gemma Curry heads to the Storytelling Circle for Sunday’s The Hare In The Moon

Gemma Curry, in her washer woman garb and with her favourite puppet, the Hare, for The Hare In The Moon

HAVE you ever wondered why, when the Moon is full, the shadow of a Hare is cast across its face?

If so, discover more when Hoglets Theatre’s Gemma Curry presents The Hare In The Moon at the Storytelling Circle, an enchanting wooded theatre space in the Museum Gardens, York, on Sunday.

“When a stranger wanders into the woods, all the animals try to help them, but Hare has no gift to give. How far will she go to make another happy?” asks York performer-writer Gemma, the Hoglets founder, as she hosts 30-minute performances at 11.30am, 1pm and 2.30pm.

Hoglets Theatre will take Sunday’s audiences on a magical journey for all the family, exploring the true meaning of kindness through a combination of interactive storytelling, puppetry and live music in an original play by Gemma based on an old folk tale .

“Please note, this is an outdoor event in a natural setting, so my advice is to dress for all weathers, and feel free to bring picnic blankets and cushions to make yourself comfortable,” she says. “The show is suitable for children aged three to 11 and all children must be accompanied by an adult.”

Should you be unfamiliar with the Storytelling Circle, Gemma says: “I didn’t know about that space until my children ran into it one day! It feels very private but it’s open, so it can be a nice, safe experience for our Sunday performances.”

The Hare In The Moon is “brand new-ish”. “I first did it as a Zoom show in March 2021, working with a London company called Onceupona  Children’s Theatre, who run a children’s theatre festival, but when that couldn’t go ahead, they got in touch with companies to ask if they’d like to do shows on Zoom,” she says.

“I ended up doing one last March, then one for Christmas, then Easter, and so The Hare And The Moon was done for that one. It’s now going from being performed and recorded at the end of our bed, under the covers, at home to being staged in this beautiful outdoor space.”

The text remains the same. “We used a lot of projection and shadow puppetry on Zoom to show the animals, and this time, in the Storytelling Circle, it will be more physical with me as the storyteller, basing myself on an old Greek storyteller, Clotho,” says Gemma.

“She was the Greek goddess of omens and the patron saint of washer women apparently, so I’ll be dressed as a washer woman with a beautiful costume by Julia Smith, who designed the costumes for Playhouse Creatures, my first Hedgepig Theatre show in 2012.”

Gemma will take the washer-woman imagery further. “I’ll come on stage with all these different cleaning products that will became different animals at various points in the show,” she says.

Curry in a hurry! Gemma Curry, performer, writer and founder of Hoglets Theatre, on the move

“The lovely thing with children is that you can say ‘this is an otter’ and they will suspend disbelief immediately. They can also be your warmest or harshest critic and they’ll tell you what they think there and then!

“That’s the thing I missed when we couldn’t perform to live audiences: that immediacy of reaction that theatre needs, which is both fantastic and yet terrifying as they won’t even wait for a break to say ‘this is rubbish!’.

“I love the way that children will take things as a given, but also question things at the same time. It keeps you on your toes.

“Children have a depth of knowledge nowadays that I didn’t have as a child, and they know when they’re being patronised, so you treat them as you would an adult audience. It’s great to have them there to bounce the show off.”

The story in Gemma’s performance is drawn from an old Buddhist parable that believes the Moon has been watching the world since time began, accumulating stories to tell.

“I’d never thought, ‘there’s a hare in the moon’ until I came across the story when I was doing a Zoom project for York Explore library, but if you look really, really closely – it doesn’t have to be the full moon, but bigger than a crescent moon – you can see the outline of a hare, even if the Moon is waxing or waning,” she says.

“The story is so lovely, and at the time I was writing the script, it was just so appropriate because it’s about the importance of being kind to each other, and how we work best when we work together even when we’re apart, like we’ve had to be during the lockdowns, which is a lovely message to children. It was my favourite story that I did for Zoom and it has my favourite puppet too!”

The chance to perform in the Museum Gardens emerged from another Gemma project. “I got in touch with York Museums Trust, who I’d been working for with Lara Pattison [York teacher, actor and home-schooling science communicator] for their family-friendly scripts, getting the chance to walk around the Castle Museum on our own!

“So, I asked if I could use the Storytelling Circle to do three shows in one day, and the trust was brilliant to me, saying ‘Yes’.”

Looking ahead, coming next from Hoglets Theatre will be a 19-date Christmas tour of Yorkshire libraries, presenting The Snow Bear, based on the Norwegian folk tale East Of The Sun And West Of The Noon. Look out for Explore York shows at York Explore library, Acomb, Tang Hall and Clifton, as well as visits to Scarborough, Northallerton and Rotherham, with more details to follow.

Hoglets Theatre in The Hare In The Moon, Storytelling Circle, Museum Gardens, York, Sunday, 11.30am, 1pm and 3pm. Box office: eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-hare-in-the-moon-tickets-175292954947.

Copyright of The Press, York

The poster for Hoglets Theatre’s The Hare In The Moon

More Things To Do in York and beyond, and not still bedded down in the home bunker. List No. 31, courtesy of The Press, York

Let Ian Massie take you to Another Place in his Northern Soul show at Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole from May 17

NO mention of home entertainment here, as Charles Hutchinson decides to cast fears aside – albeit while acting responsibly – as he looks forward to theatres, bars, galleries, museums and music venues opening their doors once more.

Cupid, draw back your bow and let the beer flow, straight to the York Theatre Royal patio

LOVE is in the Step 2 air, and soon on the York Theatre Royal stage too for The Love Season from May 17.

Cupid’s Bar: Follow the arrow to the York Theatre Royal patio. Picture: Livy Potter

Perfect timing to launch Cupid’s Bar for five weeks on the Theatre Royal patio, where the bar will run from midday to 9.30pm every Thursday to Sunday, providing an outdoor space in the heart of the city for residents and visitors to socialise safely.

Working with regional suppliers, Cupid’s Bar will offer a range of drink options, such as draught beer from Black Sheep Brewery, Masham, and York Gin from, er, York.

Ian Scott Massie: Finding Northern Soul in his landscape watercolours and screenprints. Picture: Steve Christian

Exhibition of the month ahead outside York: Ian Scott Massie, Northern Soul, Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole, North York Moors National Park, May 17 to July 11

MASHAM artist Ian Scott Massie’s Northern Soul show of 50 watercolours and screenprints represents his personal journey of living in the north for 45 years.

“The north is the truth of England, where all things are seen clearly,” he says. “The incomparable beauty of the landscape; the harsh ugliness left by industry; the great wealth of the aristocracy; the miserable housing of the poor; the civic pride of the mill towns and a people as likely to be mobilised by political oratory as by a comedian with a ukulele.”

The Waterfall Of Nikko-Zan In Shimotsuke Province, by Utagawa Hiroshige, 1853, from York Art Gallery’s show of rarely seen Japanese prints, Pictures Of The Floating World. Image courtesy of York Museums Trust

Reopening exhibition of the month ahead in York: Pictures Of The Floating World: Japanese Ukiyo-e Prints, York Art Gallery, from May 28

YORK Art Gallery’s display of rarely seen Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, complemented by much-loved paintings from the gallery collection, will go on show in a new Spotlight Series.

Marking next month’s gallery reopening with Covid-secure measures, Pictures Of The Floating World will feature prints by prominent Ukiyo-e artists such as Utagawa Hiroshige, along with works by those influenced by Japanese art, York artist Albert Moore and Walter Greaves among them.

This free-to-visit exhibition will highlight the significant impact of Japanese art on the western world and the consequential rise of the artistic movements of Aestheticism and Art Nouveau.”

Van the manoeuvre: Morrison’s York Barbican gigs put back to July

On the move: Van Morrison’s York Barbican shows

NO reopening date has yet been announced for York Barbican, but Irish veteran Van Morrison’s shows are being moved from May 25 and 26 to July 20 and 21.

“Please keep hold of your tickets as they will be valid for the new date,” says the Barbican website, where seats for Van The Man are on sale without social distancing, in line with Step 4 of the Government’s pandemic Roadmap to Recovery, whereby all legal limits on social contact are potentially to be removed from June 21.

Morrison, 75, will release his 42nd album, Latest Record Project: Volume 1, a 28-track delve into his ongoing love of blues, R&B, jazz and soul, on May 7 on Exile/BMG.

Lockdown love story: The taster poster for Alan Ayckbourn’s new play at the Stephen Joseph Theatre

New play of the summer: Alan Ayckbourn’s The Girl Next Door, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, June 4 to July 3

AFTER the 2020 world premiere of his virus play Truth Will Out lost out to the Covid pandemic restrictions, director emeritus Alan Ayckbourn returns to the Stephen Joseph Theatre to direct his 85th play, The Girl Next Door, in the summer season.

“I wrote it back in Spring 2020. I like to think of it as a lockdown love story,” says Ayckbourn, introducing his touching, tender and funny reflection on the ability of love to rise above adversity and reach across the years.

Influenced by his own experiences in two “lockdowns”, one in wartime London in childhood, the other in the on-going pandemic in Scarborough, Ayckbourn will play with time in a plot moving back and forth between 2021 and 1941. Box office: sjt.uk.com.

May and April in tandem: York Barbican date for Imelda next spring on her first tour in five years

Gig announcement of the week in York: Imelda May, York Barbican, April 6 2022

IRISH singer-songwriter Imelda May will play York Barbican next April in the only Yorkshire show of her Made To Love tour, her first in more than five years.

“I cannot wait to see you all again, to dance and sing together, to connect and feel the sparkle in a room where music makes us feel alive and elevated for a while,” says May. “Let’s go!”

Last Friday, the 46-year-old Dubliner released her sixth studio album, 11 Past The Hour. The box office opens tomorrow at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Dance like Fred Astaire…or more likely like Tim Booth as James end the summer at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Gig announcement of the week outside York: James, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, September 9

WHERE better for James to announce a summer show in the week they release new single Beautiful Beaches than at Scarborough Open Air Theatre?

The Manchester legends will play on the East Coast in the wake of launching their new album, All The Colours Of You, on June 4. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (23/4/2021) at 9am at scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

This will be the third that James, led by Clifford-born Tim Booth, have played Scarborough OAT after shows in 2015 and 2018.

The writers, actors, directors and organisers in a Zoom gathering for Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios at The Gillygate pub, York

And what about?

GOOD news: Live theatre bursts into life in York for the first time since December 30 when York community arts collective Next Door But One presents Yorkshire Trios in The Gillygate pub’s new outdoor seating area tomorrow and on Saturday.

Themed around Moments Yet To Happen, trios of actors, directors and writers will bring to theatre-starved York a quintet of short stories of laughter, strength, dreams and everything in between: a neighbour with a secret; a delivery driver full of wanderlust; an optimistic carousel operator; a poet inviting us into her world and a Jane McDonald fan on a soapbox.

Bad news for tardy readers? The 7.30pm shows have sold out.

York Art Gallery unmasks Your Art Gallery and Views of York and Yorkshire as first exhibitions of masked-up summer return

York Art Gallery senior curator Beatrice Bertram stands by Richard Jack’s Return To The Front, Victoria Railway Station, on its return to the exhibition frontline for Your Art Gallery. All piictures: Anthony Chappel Ross

YORK Art Gallery had to curtail the Miller’s tale of Pop Art book covers in its ground-floor galleries when Covid-19 brought a sorry end to son of York Harland Miller’s homecoming show.

Those galleries have opened once more, however, Miller’s York, So Good They Named It Once making way for a celebration, or two celebrations, of the YAG collections from August 20.

Senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram has chosen the works for Views of York & Yorkshire, ranging from L S Lowry’s Clifford’s Tower to a dozen newly conserved works, courtesy of the Friends of York Art Gallery, never seen on public display previously.

As the second exhibition title Your Art Gallery: Paintings Chosen By You would suggest, you have indeed made the choices from “some of York Art Gallery’s most well-known paintings” for the walls and floor of the two side Madsen galleries .

Beatrice Bertram with a selection of works depicting York Minster in the Views of York & Yorkshire exhibition

More precisely, more than 400 people took part in an online poll, when choosing ten works from 20, Parmigianino’s Portrait Of A Man Reading A Book(c.1530), Richard Jack’s Return To The Front, Victoria Railway Station(1916) and Barbara Hepworth’s drawing Surgeon Waiting (1948) among them.

William Etty, the 18th century York artist whose statue greets visitors in Exhibition Square, inevitably features too. “We always have to show Etty! We have the largest repository of his works in the world,” says Beatrice.

Other favourites were selected through a week of five head-to-head clashes on Twitter and by a Friends of York Art Gallery online poll.

To qualify for selection, the works must have been in storage, returned from a loan elsewhere or not been shown for a number of years; none of them being on display when the gallery was closed for the lockdown.

Sarah Steel, marketing and communications officer at York Museums Trust, with Catherine Davenant, 1656-69, by Artist unknown

The poll and Twitter choices are complemented by artworks with chronological or thematic links, alongside new YAG acquisitions by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Liverpool Docks At Night) and Scarborough artist Jade Montserrat, plus some of the gallery’s Twitter #CuratorBattle contenders in lockdown, most notably Grayson Perry’s ceramic, Melanie. 

Explaining the philosophy behind the linking exhibitions, Beatrice says: “These exhibitions were a perfect chance to engage with our audience, as having to close the gallery from March to August was so frustrating when we so want to connect with our visitors.

“To celebrate the reopening of York Art Gallery, we wanted to showcase our rich collection by bringing artworks out of store. These two new exhibitions do just that.

“We hope visitors enjoy viewing the beautiful topographical landscapes of Yorkshire and admiring the paintings which they voted for display in Your Art Gallery: Paintings Chosen by You.

Millie Carroll, York Museums Trust’s digital communications officer, stands beside Parmigianino‘s Portrait Of A Man Reading A Book (circa 1530)

“Thank you so much to everyone who got involved, and for telling us why the works you chose resonated with you by writing labels. We’ve loved reading your submissions – variously heartfelt, humorous, perceptive and poignant – and it’s made the curation of the show a wonderful experience. We hope visitors will enjoy these personal accounts as much as we did.” 

Involving the public in curating a show was “innovative, fun and hugely enjoyable, both for those who took part and for us,” says Beatrice. “It’s been incredibly rewarding and revealing to read people’s comments on their choices, expressing their feelings, how a particular work resonated with them, how they connected with them.

“It was noticeable how they were drawn to works depicting nature, or depicting gatherings or live performances, such as L S Lowry’s The Bandstand, Peel Park, Salford, because of wanting to experience the buzz of a performance again.

“They were looking to works from wartime too, connecting with another time of terrifying, unprecedented change, and the surgeon’s mask in Barbara Hepworth’s Surgeon Waiting struck a chord because of Coronavirus.”

Wakefield and St Ives artist Barbara Hepworth’s Surgeon Waiting: selected for the Your Art Gallery exhibition

Summing up her reaction to the selections, Beatrice says: “While there were some I expected them to choose, there were surprises too. All the women artists went through from the choices, which I was particularly pleased to see.”

Aside from the public choices, Beatrice is keen to highlight the York Art Gallery acquisitions on show, such as a series of works by Jade Montserrat (born 1987) acquired through the Contemporary Art Society in 2020.

“We’re always looking at our collections policy, always seeking to achieve a more diverse representation, though that doesn’t preclude the Grimshaw acquisition, because we’re also always looking out for great works too.

“Jade Montserrat is a contemporary artist, whose work is inspired by growing up in Scarborough. She’s brave, bold and fearless and we’re excited that she’s represented in our collection.”

Eye to eye: Millie Carroll glances at Bryan Kneale‘s 1958 portrait of Sir Herbert Read. Copyright: Bryan Kneale

Look out too for a work with a new attribution: St John The Baptist, now accredited to the 17th century Flemish artist Hendrik de Somer. “Art Detective have come up with a very persuasive attribution for that painting,” says Beatrice. “There are not many examples of his work in this country, so that’s exciting.”

In the central Madsen gallery is the Views of York & Yorkshire exhibition of city, country and coast: Beatrice Bertram’s choices of topographical paintings and works on paper, the latter selected with her exhibition assistant, Genevieve Stegner-Freitag, the Friends of York Art Gallery MA Research Scholar.

Works on show span William Marlow’s The Old Ouse Bridge, York, painted in 1763, to Ed Kluz’s View Of Exhibition Square, York, from 2012. At the heart of the show is York Art Gallery’s W.A. Evelyn Collection, donated to the gallery in 1931 from the estate of philanthropist Dr William Arthur Evelyn (1860-1935).

As his collection of 1,500 prints, watercolours, drawings and engravings focused on York and Yorkshire, the gallery has since added further works of York and beyond the city walls, expanding the collection to 4,000, aided by the Evelyn Award annual competition that elicited new works too.

Grayson Perry’s 2014 ceramic Melanie, one of York Art Gallery’s Twitter #CuratorBattle contenders in lockdown. Copyright: Grayson Perry

Among the highlights is the gallery acquisition on show for the first time, Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding’s Rivaulx Abbey. Shouldn’t that be Rievaulx Abbey? “Artistic licence!” says Beatrice.

Along with works by JMW Turner (Fountains Abbey), Letitia Marion Hamilton, John Piper, Thomas Rowlandson, Ethel Walker and Joseph Alfred Terry,  Grinton artist Michael Bilton’s Approaching Storm Over Calver Hill leaps out too.

“Combining canvas, oil, enamel and paper, it shows a disused quarry with post-industrial marks and pits from former lead mines, and by using different materials, Bilton makes it look like it’s constantly moving, and you can really feel like a storm is approaching,” says Beatrice.

Exhibition assistant Genevieve set to work on selecting 12 works from the Evelyn Collection for conservation. “For the most part, the prints were in pretty good condition but not exhibitable but with the Friends’ help, 12 have been restored that had never been exhibited before,” she says.

Senior curator Beatrice Bertram brushing up on York artist William Etty’s Monkbar, York ( (circa 1832-43)

“I was looking for works that were not only in good condition but also works from the same period, the mid-19th century, in three specific genres: Picturesque, Realist and Topographical.”

Genevieve, from Washington DC, is studying on the Art History programme at the University of York, arriving in the city last September, when her first experiences had an impact on her subsequent choices for restoration being dominated by York Minster (or York Cathedral, as several works call Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral building).

“The first thing I did when I came to York was to view the Minster. I’d seen pictures before, but we just don’t have buildings like that in the United States,” she says. “To see living history is so powerful, and I then wanted to pick out works in different genres that treat that history very differently.

“One of the nice things about the timing of working on the show is that it coincided with people not being able to go into the city since the March lockdown and that makes our appreciation of the Minster really come alive.”

Millie Carroll, in silhouette, with John Varley’s Children Swimming Under The Old Ouse Bridge, York (1805), left, and L S Lowry’s Clifford’s Tower, York (1952-53). Copyright: The Estate of L S Lowry

Now, once more we can appreciate that history, that architecture, the city’s art collections, in person, as Beatrice acknowledges: “The real pleasure is to be able to show the public engagement in the gallery, becoming the curation voice of an exhibition, resonating with our current times,” she says.

“We’ve missed our audience so much, and it’s lovely for everyone to be able to stand close to artworks again, to breathe art in again. There’s no replacement for that experience.”

York Art Gallery has introduced free admission to its permanent collections, with timed tickets available at yorkartgallery.org.uk, and a Pay As You Feel initiative for Views of York & Yorkshire and Your Own Gallery, recommending a sum of £3, £5 or £7. Please note, booking is essential, along with the wearing of a mask or facial covering.

“We are in a challenging financial situation, as is every gallery in the country, so we would welcome contributions on a Pay As You Feel basis,” says Beatrice. “We are excited to be open again and to present exhibitions, but if we are going to be able to keep doing this, we shall have to fund-raise.”

Storm brewing: A masked-up Millie Carroll adds to the swirl of colours in Michael Bilton’s 1998 work Approaching Storm over Calver Hill. Copyright: Michael Bilton

VIEWS of York & Yorkshire and Your Art Gallery have opened against the backdrop of York Museums Trust warning that it would “run out of cash in January 2021”, if more financial support were not forthcoming.

The trust runs York Art Gallery, York Castle Museum, the Yorkshire Museum and York St Mary’s but revealed in a report to the City of York Council executive last week that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an “immediate financial threat to YMT’s continued existence”.

So much so that the trustees have registered a serious incident report with the Charities Commission, placing all four at risk of closure after the Coronavirus lockdown led to a “drastic loss of income at the very start of the peak visitor season”, leaving the trust facing a £1.54m deficit. 

At present, the city council provides £300,000 a year to the trust. The report, however, states the trust requires funding support of £1.35m this year and up to £600,000 in 2021 to ensure the visitor attractions remain open and the trust collections continue to be looked after.

The council has proposed to write a letter of guarantee, promising to provide the trust with up to £1.95m of the funds needed. One factor in what sum the councillors might agree will be whether the trust receives Government funding from the Culture Recovery Fund for cultural organisations to cover October 2020 to March 31 2021. The deadline for applications is September 5.

York Theatre Royal boosted by emergency funding from Arts Council England

York Theatre Royal’s stage and auditorium bathed in “emergency red” when taking part in the #LightItInRed campaign on Monday night

YORK Theatre Royal is to receive £196,493 from Arts Council England’s emergency response fund.

Executive director Tom Bird tweeted: “We’re massively grateful for the @ace_national support from their emergency fund. It keeps us going so we can keep supporting & developing creativity in this wondrous city. Thanks @ace_thenorth. Back to it.”

Bird told CharlesHutchPress: “We received the sum we requested, and it was strictly done on the basis of ‘what do you need to get you through to September 30’.

“But I must stress it is only a sum to take us to that point, when the reality is that we’re a venue usually with an annual turnover of £4 million.”

From Arts Council England’s £33 million pot for National Portfolio and Creative People & Places Organisations, York Museums Trust has received £362,000; Harrogate Theatre, £395,000; Leeds Playhouse (Leeds Theatre Trust), £669,326; Northern Ballet, Leeds, £500,000 and Sheffield Theatres Trust, £675,569.