28 Nov, 2013

Tetley brewery in Leeds reopens as modern art gallery

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

The iconic Tetley brewery headquarters in Leeds has been tranformed into a new centre for contemporary art and learning

Sixty former Tetley beer workers will on Friday enjoy tea and cake at their art deco former headquarters and see a somewhat unlikely transformation.

The fabulously wood-panelled offices are still there, as are portraits of rather dour-looking, whiskered Tetley directors. What’s new is the contemporary art.

“We hope they will be absolutely blown away,” said Pippa Hale, co-founder of an organisation opening a new visual arts centre called, obviously, the Tetley. All the brewing and bottling works have gone from what was a 22-acre site on Leeds’ south bank, but the main office building remains.

Its owner Carlsberg has given a ten-year lease on a peppercorn rent to the arts organisation Project Space Leeds (PSL) and they will open it to the public on Friday once the ex-employees have had their look round.

Hale, with fellow PSL founder Kerry Harker, stress that the Tetley is not another of the super-galleries that have opened in recent years – like the Baltic in Gateshead or the Hepworth Wakefield – but is filling the gap between galleries of that type and the busy, buzzy grassroots arts scene that exists in the city.

As well as exhibition and learning space there are community facilities and resources for artists. It is more like Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) or Bristol’s Arnolfini.

Harker recalled first seeing the building and said they knew straight away it was right, although there was a definite air of dereliction. “It was really gloomy and it was a bit of a leap of faith to imagine how it might look.”

Hale added: “When Carlsberg left they literally just left. There were coffee cups on the table, shirts hanging on coat hangers, boots under tables.”

But there was also mountains of artworks, documents and objects relating to the history of a brewer founded in 1822 by Joshua Tetley.

There are no plans to create a Tetley archive as such, but objects and documents – a National Institute of Industrial Psychology pamphlet on card punching, for example – will be used to inspire artists and be put on display.

All the furniture left behind in the building has been spruced up and is being used in the bar and restaurant.

The inaugural programme is called A New Reality and will feature exhibitions, discussions and events all about “unpicking the fabric of the building”.

The artist James Clarkson will create new work using items found during the renovation.

Manchester-based artists Emma Rushton and Derek Tyman, meanwhile, were on Friday putting the finishing touches to their installation in the main gallery space.

Called Fear of the Surplus, the artists have built a black wooden stage with a Victorian Methodist feel to it. On it are painted quotes about work and art and it will be used as a platform for debates about what work is led by different academics and theorists.

Rushton said it was wonderful to have a new space giving a platform to artists who “are not necessarily the names that usually get platforms”.

She added: “The idea that it is an art gallery and an archive and a resource centre I think is really ambitious. It’s thrilling to be one of the first in.”

Work on the conversion began in September 2012 and it has been undertaken with relatively small amounts of money. Carlsberg have given around £1m to help renovation and the introduction of disabled access, while Arts Council England gave a capital grant of £225,000.

PSL itself gets a small amount of regular funding from ACE, around £50,000 and a similar sum from Leeds city council.

Hale and Harker said they would aim to raise as much as they could from hiring space out, as well as the restaurant and bar.

On Thursday night a party for some 700 people was held and this weekend’s events include a three-mile Tetley art run, souvenir screen-printing and pinhole photography workshops.

PSL, a charity which for six years was based in a rather isolated, disused office space at Whitehall Waterfront, has the building for ten years – a period that will coincide with the 200th anniversary of Joshua Tetley and Son – and hope to be there a lot longer. “We would like them to gift us the building obviously, we have mooted the idea,” said Harker. “We think the anniversary would be a good point to do it.”

Read the original post on Guardian Arts & Architecture


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