Jewish Artists in Yorkshire is based around the major Jewish artists in the University of Leeds’ art Collection, including Jacob Kramer, Philip Naviasky and Willy Tirr. Layla said: “We felt this would be the perfect opportunity not only to celebrate the artists in our collection, but also to pay tribute to some of the great patrons in our history. The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery is named after some fantastic Jewish patrons – so we’re really thankful to them as well as the artists.”
|Philip Naviasky, Street Scene, Staithes (detail), oil on canvas, Private Collection, Yorkshire © Estate of the Artist|
The grouping of artists based on religious or ethnic grounds can be incredibly tricky for a curator and in the past has inflamed racial and religious tensions. Layla outlined the careful balance that needed to be maintained: “We were trying to show the diversity of the community. There were a lot of people who were concerned when they heard about the exhibition that we were trying to pigeonhole people into some kind of ethnic stereotype. That’s not the case – what we’re here to do is celebrate a very diverse community, and one that is very important to Leeds.”
The range of artists represented in the exhibition all have their own unique relationship to their Judaism. Layla said: “The artists interpret the world in many different ways - some through the lens of their Jewish identity, and some not at all. It can be just a religion for people, it’s certainly an ethnic heritage for a lot of people, and some people have very little connection to it – but it’s up to the individual artist to define for themselves.”
The response from the wider community in Leeds has been an enthusiastic one. Layla said: “I’m overwhelmed - this is the most popular exhibition opening we’ve ever had. I don’t know the numbers yet, but we ran out of wine! We had to bring out the kosher wine which we were reserving just for the religious people – and that was only 15 minutes into the exhibition opening.”
The exhibition has encouraged members of the local Jewish community to donate paintings to the gallery’s collection so that they can be seen by the wider public. Layla said: “People have a lot of pride in their heritage. We’ve had a lot of people from the community who heard about the exhibition and got really excited about it. We’ve had two people give gifts of paintings by Jewish artists for our permanent collection.”
|Joash Woodrow, Mr Woodrow’s Shop, Chapeltown Road, Leeds, c. 1945, gouache on paper, Private Collection © The Bridgeman Art Library courtesy of The Joash Woodrow Family|
Jewish Artists in Yorkshire is on display at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, Leeds, until June 30.
The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery.