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Neon artwork signals new era for 1930s Leeds building

Public artwork 'Where the Heart is' at the Algernon Firth Building, in Great George Street, Leeds. Picture by David Lindsay.

Public artwork 'Where the Heart is' at the Algernon Firth Building, in Great George Street, Leeds. Picture by David Lindsay.

A piece of glowing neon artwork created by a Yorkshire artist has been unveiled outside a new Leeds student apartment block.

Tim Etchells’ ‘Where the Heart is’ installation was lit for the first time on the walls of the Algernon Firth Building, in Great George Street, this week to mark both its former use as the Institute of Pathology, a centre for anatomical research, and its future as student accommodation.

The work was the product of a competition in which artists were invited to submit designs to mark the change of use of the 1930s listed building next to Leeds General Infirmary.

Leeds-based property firm Rushbond commissioned the artwork, which is Sheffield artist Etchells’ first public installation in the North of England.

Jonathan Maud, managing director of Rushbond, said: “We hope that a cool neon art installation will provide a source of inspiration and interest for our student residents and neighbours, as well as the wider city centre community, and add to the growing status and role of Leeds as a focus for contemporary art and culture.”

‘Where the Heart is’ also aims to pay a lasting tribute to the generosity of Sir Algernon Firth, the philanthropist and chair of T.F. Firth and Company, who the building was named after.

Etchells worked with the team behind Project Space Leeds, the contemporary arts charity based at The Tetley, Hunslet, to produce the piece. He said: “Neon sits really well with the building’s style and has a historic place in Leeds – the Headrow was awash with neon lighting from the 1930s.

“Gesturing to past and present uses of the building, the commission is a great opportunity for me to create a highly visible public-space work in Leeds.”

Tim Etchells has had works widely exhibited across the UK and abroad in countries including South Korea, Belgium, Canada and Germany. In the last six years he has created a substantial body of work in both neon and LED exploring language.

Leeds City Council’s executive member for culture, Coun Lucinda Yeadon, added: “We welcome the opportunity to show work that has been specially commissioned for Leeds.

“It is particularly pleasing to see Rushbond playing a key part in further heightening awareness of Leeds as a cultural destination.”

 

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