Graves Art Gallery on Surrey Street in the city center will reopen on Friday September 3 after six months of renovations to redecorate, redo gallery walls largely intact since 1934, take out many works of art from storage for new exhibitions and showcase the work with a new perspective on classical art.
The project, which marks the gallery’s first major re-exhibition in ten years, was made possible with funding of £ 455,000 from the Ampersand Foundation.
Work on breathing new life into one of the city’s ‘cultural gems’ started last year but has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and it is hoped they could be a ‘stepping stone’ towards more investment in the historic central library building of the future.
When visitors return next month, the first time the public will be in the gallery since March 2020, they will see portraits, landscape works and pieces that address the theme of identity.
Kim Streets, Managing Director of Sheffield Museums Trust, said: “This project offers an opportunity to demonstrate what we have and what we can be.
“Art belongs to the people of Sheffield.
“There is a mix of contemporary and classical art, it offers different perspectives.
“Some pieces explore trauma, like Shot at Dawn.
“When you read the description of it, the room gives you chills.”
Leading contemporary artist Keith Piper, a member of the BLK Art Group, was invited to organize a space in the gallery and included his 1984 work Seven Rages of Man, exploring the experience of the black diaspora. Keith chose pieces from the city’s collection, including an anti-apartheid t-shirt and gold from the Royal Africa Company to display and contrast his work.
Kim added, “This is an exciting project. A third of the work will not have been hung when the gallery closed last year, and we will continue to develop the collection over the years.
“We will work with children and young people, creating works in response to the collection, doing an in-depth study of the pieces and as co-curator.
“It will be an opportunity to enter and understand the work. By 2022, we want a gallery that grows with young people.
The Graves site did not reopen when Covid restrictions were relaxed in 2020, as the central library building remained closed to the public.
Also that year, the Central Library was assigned by the owners of Sheffield Council to a £ 9million scheme to fix a backlog of repairs just a month after Kim warned “time was running out” for the historic building.
At the end of 2017, the council presented its ambition to transform the central library building into a “cultural center”. The proposal came to light when the board admitted the premises would not be converted into a five-star hotel – an idea that was part of a failed £ 1bn deal with Chinese investor Sichuan Guodong Group.
Kim said this week, “The gallery still needs some pretty significant investment. “We need investments in the structure of the building, we need the support of the council. We hope this will be a springboard to come up with a plan. “
Sculptor Mark Firth, an artist with ties to Sheffield whose work will be on display at the gallery, works with aluminum to create pieces that play with light and space.
He said, “Art will tell you something. My work is timeless rather than absolutely current, it invokes both the old and the modern.
Other early exhibits include First Chance to See Pandemic Diary, a new series of drawings by Sheffield artist Phlegm, and a landscape-themed exhibit.
The Graves Art Gallery will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. after September 3. Entrance is free and reservations do not need to be made but Covid security measures will be in place.
Ampersand’s funding will also support other re-displays, curation and work with schools and artists over the next four years.
The return of the gallery is one of the first steps in the new Unified Sheffield Museums Trust, in which Museums Sheffield will merge with Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust, responsible for Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, Kelham Island Museum and Shepherd Wheel.
It was opened in 1934 and named after its benefactor, mail order magnate John George Graves.