Changing Art Landscape: York Art Gallery’s Transformation and Adaptation in the Face of the Pandemic


York Art Gallery – Something For Everyone

From the omnipresent masks and hand sanitizer to the opening of York Art Gallery’s first exhibition in months, the way galleries made it through one of the darkest years on record shows that-pandemic or no-the fundamental way they function in the high-flying art world is changing.

This web feature explores how.


There’s something for everyone at York Art Gallery, housed in a grand Victorian exhibition building. The gallery re-opened in 2015 after an £8m transformation, with the collection spanning over 600 years of world-class artworks. Highlights include Old Masters like Parmigianino’s sixteenth century ‘Portrait of a Man with a Book’, major paintings by the Camden Town group and the Bloomsbury Group, and an outstanding collection of studio ceramics, including works by Lucie Rie and Shoji Hamada.

There are also a series of special exhibitions. This autumn, ‘Edward Hopper: New York’ brings together prints, drawings, and illustrated ephemera to show how the city inspired his evocative distillations of urban experience, whilst ‘Bloom’ brings together botanical artworks from the gallery’s collection, alongside key loans. It reveals how artists of the time understood nature and green spaces for enjoyment, creativity, and wellbeing.


The gallery’s collections have grown since it opened in 1882 thanks to the generosity of donors and bequests. There are over 1,000 paintings, 100 sculptures and 14,000 works on paper including watercolours and drawings. The Gallery is particularly strong in works of art showing views of York and Yorkshire and it has a major collection of 20th century British paintings.

The Gallery also has a substantial collection of studio ceramics and an array of other decorative arts. In addition it has a growing outdoor sculpture collection.

‘Bloom’ brings together botanical artworks from the Gallery and key loans to explore the importance of flowers, gardens and plant life for enjoyment, creativity and wellbeing. The exhibition will also include family friendly artist led workshops, under 5s storytelling and fun trails around the Gallery. Adults can enjoy life drawing and still life painting and the opportunity to explore the exhibition after hours at a special late event. All supported by the Friends of York Museums Trust.


Whether you want to view the Old Masters or explore contemporary sculpture, York Art Gallery has an exhibition for you. There is also a wide range of paintings, prints and drawings on display. And don’t forget to check out the Centre of Ceramic Art, where you can find some of the finest ceramics in the world.

A tour of York’s galleries is a fantastic way to experience the city’s rich cultural heritage. The gallery is free to enter, so you can visit at your leisure. It’s also a great place to bring children, as it features interactive exhibits for them. Plus, there’s a cafe and a shop that sells gifts for your family and friends. The dress code is casual, but it’s a good idea to bring a jacket for the protection of the artworks. The gallery is closed on Mondays and public holidays. There is a discounted ticket available for people who receive Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit or Income Support.


A new mezzanine floor takes advantage of the original full height exhibition gallery space. This, along with the reopening of the ‘secret gallery’ which has become the centre for British studio ceramics, boosts exhibition space by 60%.

The building’s front elevation is clad in tessellated hexagonal tiles referencing historic rosemary sett patterns found on York’s streets. This is a bold move following the studious restraint of other spaces but works well thanks to the scale of the tiles, their soft undulating colours and the subtle way they sit against the brick facade.

The building was designed by Edward Taylor to host the second Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition in 1879, and later became the City Art Gallery. It now houses England’s most important collection of classical paintings and the world’s largest display of contemporary ceramics. A competition-winning scheme by Ushida Findlay and conservationists Simpson & Brown has refurbished and restored the gallery’s Victorian structure, reopening it to the public for the first time since 1950.

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