Wandering around Leeds Art Gallery the other day, I noticed a series of red labels identifying certain paintings as being ‘Yorkshire’s Favourites’. I duly googled the term to find out a bit more, and it turned out to be a bit of fun taking advantage of the fact that a good number of paintings held in galleries and museums across Yorkshire are now available to view online. Members of the public were accordingly encouraged to write, record or video their personal story about why they liked their favourite work.
Sadly, I failed to spot the deadline of end of March for joining in (I think I would have gone for either a delightful Gwen John in The Graves Gallery in Sheffield or the wonderfully enigmatic Paula Rego painting in Leeds Art Gallery), so I’ve had to make do after the event reading and watching others’ stories, but at least we can now all view these works in great detail online. A magnifying glass feature allows for very detailed examination (always a good thing for me as someone constantly in danger in galleries of leaning forward over the ropes so far to peer at surfaces and read labelling that I am in danger of falling headlong into the wall), and it’s already encouraged me to plan some visits to galleries I’ve not yet visited.
But the one thing I was really interested in remains a bit of a mystery. How were the paintings selected for inclusion online? When I was walking around spotting the red labels, I thought the public itself had determined selection by nominating or voting. I became fascinated then by the absence of works from the 21st century (actually, there’s one), and the inclusion of others, which to be honest, would not have been at the top of my list. On looking at the website though, I’m not sure who made the selection, and what the criteria were, and I’d really love to know. Lists – and this is a list – always fascinate me, but more information is needed to fully explore the social, aesthetic and curatorial aspects of this one.