History of York Art Gallery

York Art Gallery’s collection of paintings spans more than 600 years and works range from 14th century Italian panels and 17th century Dutch masterpieces to Victorian narrative paintings and 20th century works by LS Lowry and David Hockney.

We also hold the most extensive and representative collection of British Studio Ceramics, thanks to the acquisition of collections from Dean Milner–White, WA Ismay and Henry Rothschild and the recent long term loan of Anthony Shaw’s collection.

The building which houses the gallery opened its doors to the public in 1879 for the second Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition, inspired by the Great Exhibition in London of 1851. In 1892 it became the City Art Gallery.

The gallery looks out over Exhibition Square, also created in 1879, and beyond to the city walls and York Minster. The centrepiece of the square is a statue of York artist William Etty which was erected in 1911.

York Art Gallery holds the largest collection of work by Etty and in 2011 held the first major exhibition of his work for 50 years, showing many of these paintings and sketches alongside loans from other major galleries.


Our Redevelopment Project

York Art Gallery underwent a major redevelopment prior to it’s grand reopening on August 1 2015. The project enabled us to create 60% more display space, new gardens and a Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA).

The increased space includes a new first-floor gallery in the space above the Main Gallery on the ground floor. An entirely new gallery was also created above the existing South Gallery, expanding into the rooms next door formerly occupied by the City Archives.

The gallery now has three exhibition spaces on the ground floor, capable of hosting major national and international exhibitions, and four on the first floor, two of which showcase our internationally significant collection of British Studio Ceramics.

An additional new entrance to the gallery was created at the rear of the building, leading down from the new first floor gallery into a newly-opened up section of the Museum Gardens, which has been developed into a public green space for fun and outdoor learning.

Other developments include a new expanded cafe, new lifts, new toilets, new shops, a new collection store and an improved Studio space for learning.


The project has brought an investment of £8 million into York. We are very grateful to all our funders who have made this project possible:

National Lottery through Arts Council England – £3.5 million
Private Legacy – £2 million
City of York Council – £500,000
Anthony Shaw Trust – £400,000
Garfield Weston Foundation – £250,000
The Foyle Foundation – £150,000
Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement – £100,000
The Feoffees of St Michael’s of Spurriergate – £50,000
Shepherd Group – £50,000 over three years.