Elgin Marbles, Burmese Bells

….now centaurs find permanent homes at York Art Gallery.

Two eye-catching marble sculptures, currently on display at York Art Gallery, could be formally added to York’s museum collection


They are not quite at the Elgin Marbles level of interest but their fate is likely to be less controversial than the Councils 1978 decision to hand over the famous “Burmese Bell”.

The Burmese Bell was displayed in the Guildhall after it had been presented to the Lord Mayor in 1855 by officers of the 51st Regiment. They had taken the trophy in 1852 when the British Army stormed the Great Shwedagon Temple during the second Burmese war. The six hundredweight bell was relocated to the Castle Museum archive following the destruction of the Guildhall during WW2.

There was much agonising in the Council chamber about whether it should be given a spot in the newly restored Guildhall. By 1978 the Council had decided (narrowly) to offer the bell back to the regiment. The Council decision was not taken on ethical grounds – there was no “Elgin Marbles” style “Return the Bell to Burma” campaign – but rather the Council did not want to foot restoration and maintenance bills.

Burmese Bell

The Bell now resides in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry museum in Doncaster*.

There may be less handwringing about the pair of marble sculptures, Young Centaur (tempted by love) and Old Centaur (bound by love), both probably carved by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (1716-1799) in Rome in around 1755. They are thought to have been copied from  sculptures were found together at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli in 1736. The originals dated from about 1AD

They were bought by the city Council in the 1940s from Wentworth Woodhouse when the estate was split up, specifically to be displayed in the Assembly Rooms.

The centaurs were loaned to York Art Gallery in the 1970s and were later put into storage. Following York Conservation Trust’s purchase of the Assembly Rooms, uncertainty arose about the ownership of the centaurs.

Following discussions, York Conservation Trust’s board has agreed that it would be willing to transfer the sculptures to the city’s museum collection. These collections are owned by the council and managed by York Museums’ Trust under a long-term loan and management agreement.

Members of the council’s Executive will be asked next week whether they would agree to move the centaurs into the city’s museum collections. Doing so would ensure that the statues remain as part of the city’s cultural legacy, are accessible to York residents for perpetuity, and will confirm their ownership. 

The statues currently form part of The National Gallery Masterpiece Tour 2019 at York Art Gallery from 13 July – 22 September 2019. They are among a number of works inspired by the classical ideals of ancient art and complement Nicolas Poussin’s The Triumph of Pan, one of the National Gallery’s most significant works, which is the exhibition’s centrepiece this summer

*More details of the Burma Bell can be found in a volume of the York Historian (vol 24) published in 2007 which is kept in the City Archives.

What’s on in York: When All is Quiet – Kaiser Chiefs in Conversation with York Art Gallery

Dec _14Kaiser

York Art Gallery :

Fri 14 Dec –  Sun 10 Mar :

10.00am – 5.00pm :

Admission prices

Kaiser Chiefs explore the boundaries between art and music this winter in a unique and experimental exhibition at York Art Gallery.

Using their position as pop musicians as a starting point, Kaiser Chiefs have selected exciting international loans, matched paintings with a “set list” of songs and created a  “Silent Gig” which uses light, colour, and lyrics to offer visitors a reconfigured experience of a live music show.

The band invite you to join them in exploring the edges between music, art, creation and performance.

For more information please visit our website.


YMT Card Holder                                         FREE

Adult (with 10% Gift Aid Donation)            £7.50

Adult (without donation)                           £6.81

Child (16 and under)*                                FREE with a paying adult

Access Day Ticket**                                    £4.00

With a YorkCard                                          20% off day tickets

What’s on in York: Strata – Rock – Dust – Stars

Sep _28Rock

York Art Gallery :

Fri 28 Sep – Thu 25 Nov :

10.00am – 5.00pm :

£7.50 or YMT Card Holder Free

This landmark exhibition showcasing ground-breaking moving image, new media and interactive artwork is coming to York this September, as part of York’s first Mediale.
The exhibition is inspired by William Smith’s geological map of 1815, which transformed the way in which we understand the world.
It will be the most ambitious and large scale media art exhibition York has ever hosted.

Curated by Mike Stubbs, Director of FACT, Liverpool, in partnership with York Museums Trust and York Mediale, the exhibition features works by artists Isaac Julien, Agnes Meyer Brandis, Semiconductor, Phil Coy, Liz Orton, David Jacques and Ryoichi Kurokawa.

For more information please visit our website.

What’s on in York: 70 Years of Giving Art

May _470 YearsYork Art Gallery :

Fri 4 May – Sun 2 Sep :

10.00am – 5.00pm :

Admission charge

The Friends of York Art Gallery (FOYAG) will mark their 70th anniversary with an exhibition of some favourite works this spring.

Since it was founded in 1948, the charity has pledged more than £600,000 which has aided the purchase of over 150 works for the gallery’s collections, including pieces by Albert Moore, David Hockney, Barbara Hepworth and Grayson Perry.

To celebrate their 70th year, members of the Friends have chosen some favourite works from the gallery’s collections which have been acquired or restored thanks to their financial support.

Admission charges:

YMT Card Holder                                        FREE
Adult (with 10% Gift Aid Donation)               £7.50
Adult (without donation)                               £6.81
Child (16 and under)                                    FREE with a paying adult
Access Day Ticket                                       £4.00

For more information click here.

What’s on in York: The Sea is the Limit

May _4Art Gallery

York Art Gallery :

Fri 4 May – Sun 2 Sep :

10.00am – 5.00pm :

Admission charge

Thought provoking works of art exploring the current and ongoing issues of migration, dispossession and national borders are brought together in a major new exhibition opening at York Art Gallery this May.

Eleven international artist use their work to question the meaning of nationalism, free movement, inclusion and exclusion, drawing on both the historical and contemporary narratives which shape identity and opinion.

The exhibition expresses a desire for freedom and a better life that stands in sharp contrast to the reality the migrants experience on their journeys.

Admission charges :

YMT Card Holder                                        FREE
Adult (with 10% Gift Aid Donation)               £7.50
Adult (without donation)                               £6.81
Child (16 and under)                                    FREE with a paying adult
Access Day Ticket                                       £4.00

For more information click here.

Buoyant 6 months for York Museums

The York Museums Trust says that it has had a very good six months. The figures are contained in a report being presented to the York Council.

Like other major visitor attractions in the City, the autumn and early winter saw large number of customers.

Attendances at the two major Museums and the Art Gallery saw increases compared to the same period in the previous year.

The Trust says, that the ‘YMT Card’ scheme, introduced in summer 2015, remains “very popular” “Over 50,000 ‘YMT Cards’ have been sold to date, there are currently 24,500 active card holders and 55% of members are York resident, (meaning 14% of adults within the CoYC boundary have purchased a YMT Card)”.

The Trust has general reserves of over £2 million. It expects to sustain these over then next 5 years. The Trust does not mention any restricted funds in its report.

The YMT receives a grant of £300,000 a year from the York Council.

What’s on in York: Albert Moore – Of Beauty and Aesthetics

York Art Gallery

Fri 7 Apr –  Sun 1 Oct

10.00am – 5.00pm

£7.50 and concessions

AlbertYork Art Gallery presents the first monographic exhibition of York born artist Albert Joseph Moore since the artist’s death in 1893.

Featuring more than 20 paintings and watercolours, it will highlight the beautiful and classical women for which the artist is most famous and demonstrate the modernity of Moore’s approach.

Albert Moore was one of the leading artists of the Aesthetic movement who prioritised mood, colour harmony and beauty of form over subject matter to create ‘art for art’s sake’. The exhibition will explore Albert Moore’s career and body of work using the latest research into his work by leading experts. It will include examples of Moore’s youthful Pre-Raphaelite works as well as the hauntingly beautiful classical figures of his mature style.

Organised by York Museums Trust and Museum De Buitenplaats, in Eelde, Netherlands, the exhibition features the stunning and ambitious ‘Midsummer’, 1887, from the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery, Bournemouth alongside other key works from public and private collections across the UK.

  • Adult: £7:50
    Child (16 and Under): Free with a paying adult
    Access Day Ticket: £4
    With a York Card: 20% off day tickets

For more information please call York Art Gallery on (01904) 687687 or enquiries@ymt.org.uk.  Or visit our website www.yorkartgallery.org.uk and twitter account @yorkartgallery.

What’s on in York: Exploring watercolour techniques with landscape and architecture

York Art Gallery : Sat 25 Jun : 10:30am to 3:30pm : £35.00

Jun 25_WatercoloursExplore landscape and architectural imagery and use a variety of watercolour techniques to paint your own pictures.

We will look at watercolour paintings in the York Art Gallery collection that illustrate different styles & approaches to landscape and architecture (e.g. John Piper, Albert Goodwin).  Using these as our inspiration, we will then experiment with the techniques we’ve observed to produce our own landscape and/or architectural images.

For more information and to book a ticket please visit www.yortime.org.uk

Big drop in visitor numbers at York Museums

A new report reveals that visitor numbers to Museums in York fell by 18% last year.

Castle Museum

Castle Museum

342,936 people visited the Castle, Yorkshire and St Mary’s Museums compared to 417,857 in 2014.

In total 60,788 people visited the new Art Gallery between its reopening in August 2015 and April 2016. This was well down on the Museums Trusts own (annual) target of 190,000 and compares with a total of 226,404 who visited between April 2011 and April 2012 (before the Gallery was modernised and charges introduced).

The business plan for the Museums and Art Gallery, published in 2013, talked of “raising total visitor numbers to 900,000 by 2018”.Attendance number 2015

In a report to a Council committee, the Museums Trust blames the floods and lower tourist numbers in the City for the disappointing performance.

It says it has issued 1022 YMT (discount) cards to benefit claimants who therefore enjoy free admission to the attractions, as can those aged under 24.

In total 8,140 York residents have taken up the option to get a YMT card.

The Trust points to excellent customer satisfaction results at all its sites. 99% of visitors were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their visit.

No financial figures are provided in the report.

The Trust is receiving a subsidy of £607,000 from the York Council this year.