Leeds Art Gallery will re-open on 13 October 2017 with a major Joseph Beuys exhibition. This marks an important return to the city by the artist, who last exhibited here with his 1983 exhibition Joseph Beuys: Drawings. This ARTIST ROOMS exhibition will introduce his iconic persona, sculptural language and ‘constellations of ideas’ to a new generation in Yorkshire.

Beuys (born in Krefeld in 1921, died in Düsseldorf in 1986) was one of the twentieth century’s most important and revolutionary cultural figures. He changed the look and vocabulary of sculpture forever, and helped put German art back on the map after World War II. Adopting the roles of political and social activist and educator, Beuys believed in the healing power and the social function of art. He saw creativity as central to all aspects of human existence – declaring that ‘everyone is an artist’ – and he considered that art should be a kind of social sculpture with the power to shape the world.

This new exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery will fill the three main rooms on the ground floor. It brings together sculpture and drawings from the 1950s onwards drawn from the ARTIST ROOMS collection, owned jointly by the National Galleries of Scotland and Tate, with additional loans from both institutions. These works clearly show the strong scientific basis for his art and his pioneering use of materials such as felt, fat, wax and copper, which the artist has used for their ability to insulate, protect, transmit and transform.

The exhibition will include several of Beuys’s vitrines containing objects related to his performances or ‘Actions’, the bronze Table with Accumulator (1958-85) from the great 1982 Werkstatt installation at Martin-Gropius Bau in Berlin, the first Fat Chair and a group of Beuys’s multiples such as Sled (1969) and Felt Suit (1970). These will be shown together with works on paper closely connected with Beuys’s sculptural practice. ARTIST ROOMS has one of the largest collections of Joseph Beuys’s works on paper in the world.

At the heart of the exhibition is the sculpture Scala Napoletana (1985), made only a few months before the artist’s death in January 1986. Held in suspension, a pair of lead weights prevents a tall wooden ladder from soaring heavenwards.  A selection of archive exhibition posters from across the decades will highlight his powerful presence and international profile.

The ARTIST ROOMS collection of modern and contemporary art is jointly owned by the National Galleries of Scotland and Tate on behalf of the public. It was established through the d’Offay Donation in 2008, and is displayed in museums and galleries across the UK, with support from Arts Council England, Art Fund and Creative Scotland.

The ARTIST ROOMS exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery will be accompanied by a full public programme of talks and events to encourage new thinking about the history of sculpture, explore the contemporary relevance of Beuys, and to develop links with the Leeds sculpture collection – one of the most important sculpture collections in the UK.

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