Getting to know… York Art Gallery

Published 5 May 2016

Find out more about the five Museum of the Year finalists with our Q&As. This time, York Art Gallery talks carousel horses, ceramic creatures and celebratory cake.

Name: York Art Gallery

Age: It’s been 137 years since I first opened my doors to visitors for the second Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition, but since then I’ve undergone some cosmetic enhancements. While my Victorian features have been restored and conserved, I’ve also had a few modern touches to my image thanks to a recent £8 million refurbishment project.

Describe yourself in three words: Welcoming, engaging and inspiring.

What’s new with you? In March I opened a new exhibition, Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War, which is the largest exhibition of art from this period in nearly 100 years. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with the talented team at the Imperial War Museums, and truly exciting to be able to bring their extraordinary pieces to display alongside key works from my own collection.

What is your most treasured possession? My collection of British Studio Ceramics is a real source of pride – did you know it’s the largest and among the most important in the UK?

Who’s been your most famous visitor? I really enjoyed welcoming Lars Tharp to the gallery when he opened our Centre of Ceramic Art in 2015. With his passion for ceramics and a wealth of fascinating life experiences, Lars was the perfect patron to welcome people to my new dedicated ceramics centre.

Is there a museum/gallery pet? They’d hate to be described as pets, but our pair of ceramic elfin figures by Christie Brown (YORAG:2015.4 and YORAG:2015.5) are a favourite with both staff and visitors. Some say they escape the confines of their cage at night and wander the gallery in search of adventures…

I shouldn't leave without experiencing... Mark Hearld’s Lumber Room - it’s a cave of curiosities that no visitor can fail to be enchanted by. A row of carousel horses, mounted military uniforms, taxidermy marine life and a vintage ice-cream stand are just a few of the treasures to be discovered.

What’s been your biggest success? My refurbishment was a real labour of love for everyone involved, and is still a great source of pride.

You have a museum crush on... Yorkshire Museum and York Castle Museum, of course!

You’re most happy when… Visitors are happy – the collections and spaces would be nothing without people to enjoy them. We always encourage our visitors to get involved, whether it be making a doodle in one of our sketchbooks, scrolling through the interactive screens, or attending a special talk or event.

What do you most like about your appearance? During my refurbishment, I was transformed to offer 60% more exhibition space including a new upper mezzanine floor – it’s a great example of my stunning original Victorian features working alongside contemporary elements of architecture and design.

And dislike? Sometimes our feathered friends make an appearance! The team have equipped me with non-harmful methods to deter the local pigeons so that I always look my best for our visitors.

This year you’re excited about... Our next exhibition, Flesh, which will open in September 2016. We hope it will be a fascinating look at how human and animal bodies are represented through art.

If you were named Museum of the Year you would... Eat cake!

Visit York Art Gallery's Museum of the Year page.

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