York Art Gallery removes entry charge to entice visitors when re-opening on August 1

Amanda, by Karen Winship, from Our Heroes Welcome, the first new exhibition at York Art Gallery when it re-opens on August 1

YORK Art Gallery is scrapping compulsory entry charges when it re-opens its doors on August 1, in the spirit of Yorkshire Day and the Yorkshire creed of “pay nowt”.

York Museums Trust, the charity that runs the Exhibition Square gallery, is to trial new ways of opening in response to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic shutdown in March

The trust hopes that by doing away with the “barrier” of admission charges, a higher number and increased diversity of visitors will help to support the gallery through donations and buying tickets for special exhibitions.

If successful, this new policy will allow the trust to continue to offer free entry to its permanent collections, Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) and Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition throughout the year.

Initially, the gallery will be free in support of the citywide Our Heroes Welcome Campaign. From August 20, the permanent collections, CoCA and Aesthetica Art Prize show will be free to all, while two new exhibitions, Views of York & Yorkshire and Your Art Gallery: Paintings Chosen ByYou, will introduce a new paying concept of Pay As You Feel with suggested amounts.

Should the model prove financially viable, a set charge would apply for larger special exhibitions in the future, similar to other galleries around the country.

Surgeon Waiting, by Barbara Hepworth, one of the paintings in the York Art Gallery collection being put to a public vote for the Your Art Gallery exhibition from August 20. Artwork copyright: Bowness, Hepworth Estate.. Picture: York Museums Trust

Reyahn King, chief executive of York Museums Trust, says: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge financial impact on many different organisations, including museums and galleries.

“For York Museums Trust, who are so dependent on visitor admissions, it has meant we are having to look at new ways of working to engage with audiences and also remain financially viable.

“We know that having an admission charge at the gallery was a barrier for many potential visitors. We hope that, by removing the entry charge, more people will be encouraged to come and see our wonderful collections and support us through donations and buying tickets to our special exhibitions at this incredibly challenging time. We need your support more than ever.”

From August 1, York Art Gallery will be open from 11am to 4pm, five days a week, from Wednesdays to Sundays. From tomorrow (July 23), visitors will need to book their free timed tickets online at yorkartgallery.org.uk, where they also can discover more about the new exhibitions and the changes made by the trust to “ensure a safe and relaxing visit”.

The first new exhibition to be launched at York Art Gallery will be York artist Karen Winship’s tribute to the “tireless and selfless work of NHS workers” in a series of portraits painted during the Covid-19 lockdown. 

On show from August 1, as part of Our Heroes Welcome, Winship’s 11 works depict NHS workers from across England and Ireland as they tell their stories of working on the front line, caring for those struck by the virus. 

Clifford’s Tower, York, 1952-53, by L S Lowry, chosen by senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram for the Views of York & Yorkshire exhibition at York Art Gallery. © The Estate of L S Lowry. Picture: York Museums Trust

Stories of those working or volunteering in other essential services during the pandemic will be told too as the gallery invites the public to nominate their own heroes to enable “York to say thank-you to all of the essential workers”.

Two exhibitions to mark the re-opening will open on August 20: Views of York & Yorkshire and Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You.

Curated by senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram, Views of York & Yorkshire will bring together 35 much-loved paintings and works on paper depicting York and the surrounding countryside.

Artists such as L.S. Lowry, Letitia Marion Hamilton and John Piper present contrasting views of the heart of the city, while newly conserved prints of York Minster dating from the first half of the 19th century will be displayed for the first time, revealing shifting perspectives of the cathedral.

Works by Ethel Walker, J.M.W. Turner and Joseph Alfred Terry, among others, capture picturesque rural and coastal scenes beyond the city walls.

For Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You, York Art Gallery invites you to choose the paintings you love and have missed most during lockdown.

Dr Beatrice Bertram: Choosing 35 works for the Views of York & Yorkshire, on show at York Art Gallery from August 20

From Barbara Hepworth to Albert Moore, Paul Nash to Bridget Riley, works will be selected from the gallery’s rich collection of paintings, not on display at present, in a public vote, complemented by further works chosen through Twitter polls.

You are invited to write short labels for the painting you like the most, with the favourite responses being printed and displayed next to the work itself.

To choose your favourite works, visit yorkartgallery.org.uk and click on the Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen by You page.

York Castle Museum, at the Eye of York, will re-open too from August 1, offering  visitors a “unique perspective” on its displays and collections through a series of guided tours. For more information and to book tickets from tomorrow, go to: yorkcastlemuseum.org.uk.

One tour will invite you to take a stroll through the Victorian York street of Kirkgate. “See the shops, sample the wares and hear all about its fascinating history from one of our experts as you wander the cobbled streets as part of one of the new socially distanced tours taking place at the museum,” the invitation reads.

A second tour will offer a glimpse of life in the cells of York Castle Prison, while a longer, more in-depth tour will explore the museum’s fashion and textile collections.

The tours will take place from August 1 and then on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, between 11am and 3:30pm. Please note, tickets must be booked in advance.