This Autumn, Leeds played host to the ambitious British Art Show 8 opening at Leeds Art Gallery. To celebrate the launch of this prestigious show, the city came together to create the Unfold programme of Leeds visual arts events, shows, talks and commissions.
Organised by Hayward Touring and Southbank Centre, London, the British Art Show is held every five years. Its remit is to show the best in contemporary British Art and it is the biggest touring exhibition of contemporary art in the UK art calendar. After Leeds, the exhibition will visit Edinburgh, Norwich and Southampton. This unique touring show takes in four UK cities reaching unprecedented audiences and significantly contributing to the economy of those cities. Over the course of the seven previous shows, over 1.5 million people have experienced the best of contemporary British art in cities far and wide, from Glasgow to Southampton and everywhere in between.
Acting as a national survey of influential and ambitious contemporary British art, the British Art Show offers a showcase for the best of the nation’s contemporary visual art and has defined the early careers of some of our foremost contemporary artists and curators. This year’s edition was curated by Anna Colin and Lydia Yee, with the list of previous artists including Rachel Whiteread and Cornelia Parker among many others.
As the host city for the opening of British Art Show 8, Leeds played a pivotal role in developing the exhibition, and supplemented it with a unique public programme tailored to the city’s vibrant visual art scene. Leeds has an incredibly rich history, with two of Britain’s greatest sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore beginning their careers here.
The show was last in Yorkshire 25 years ago in 1990, when it toured to Leeds for the first time. Over the course of 25 years, the city has undergone numerous transformations and its independent visual arts scene is now a thriving network of pop-up spaces, permanent galleries, live shows and studios. Alongside the exhibition itself which was hosted at Leeds Art Gallery, the city will host a series of events, exhibitions, installations and performances to bring Leeds to life and encourage residents and visitors alike to explore the hidden treasures of the city’s visual arts offer.
Celebrating the return of the British Art Show to Leeds after more than 25 years, the city came together under the banner of Unfold, to create an exclusive guide to three months of cultural celebrations across Leeds. The programme included a diverse festival of events, talks, community activities, exhibitions, new public art commissions, debates and performances, spotlighting the visual arts scene in Leeds.
With more than 75 venues, studio spaces, arts organisations, collectives, and pop-ups involved, from nationally renowned venues such as Henry Moore Institute and The Hepworth Wakefield to local stalwarts such as East Street Arts, &Model, The Tetley and Harewood House Contemporary, Unfold presented the best of Leeds’s visual arts scene. As well as opening the doors of the city’s most valued historical galleries and museums, a host of new public art commissions brought contemporary art onto the streets of Leeds, showcasing the diversity of the city’s arts scene, in advance of the upcoming bid for the upcoming European Capital of Culture 2023.