14 must-see pieces of art on campus

We’ve got some amazing art across our campus. Find out more about some of our favourite pieces.

Leeds currently has certain restrictions on what you can and can’t do during the coronavirus pandemic. Find out the latest restrictions from Leeds City Council. Don’t forget, you can keep up to date with which buildings are open on campus.

We’ve got two galleries on campus in Parkinson court with regularly changing exhibitions. Our galleries opening hours may continue to be effected by Covid-19 and planned social distancing measures, so make sure to check opening times and our social media before visiting. For the latest updates from the University regarding Covid-19 visit our dedicated coronavirus website.

Our Campus is also full of outdoor installations to enjoy, here’s a list of some of our favourite pieces of public art around the university. Some is very well known while other work is hidden away in quieter areas of campus.

Spirit of Enterprise/Hermes — William Chattaway, 1958

This flying bronze figure, keeping a watchful eye out for impromptu swimmers in the Roger Stevens pond was originally on the wall of the Midland Bank building in London before the building was was sold in the early eighties. It was saved from potentially being sold for scrap and the four and a half ton sculpture has been flying high on campus since 1983.

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Lenten Cover — Mike Lyons, Good Friday 1979

Made of steel plate sourced from the scrapyards of Hull and Leeds in the 1970s, this sculpture is named after the cloths covering church statues during Lent. It’s been displayed in many locations across the UK — the Serpentine Gallery, London, Mold and Port Talbot in Wales, Norwich, and also the home of the Industrial Revolution, Ironbridge in the Midlands.

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Decrepit Memories — Emma Catlow

Hidden among the undergrowth outside the Old Bar, is the last remaining head. Originally there were three, but sadly only one remains in situ today. It’s missed by many who walk past every day, so if you’ve not seen it yet then go and have a look!

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Tree carving — Shane Green 2018

This incredible tree carving behind the union was created by local artist Shane Green. There’s so much to see, including the recycling symbol, books, flowers, an owl, and the Parkinson building! The University ran a competition and the artist took inspiration from numerous local children, staff and students, as well as ‘best design’ winner Joely Holder, a maths student here at Leeds. It’s carved out of an ash tree which was dying, and instead of felling it, the trunk was retained to create a unique and compelling sculpture reflecting the global approach to sustainability at Leeds.

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Dual Form — Barbara Hepworth, 1965

On loan from Leeds Art Gallery, this wonderful sculpture is behind stage@leeds. It’s one of an edition of seven bronzes that internationally renowned sculptor Barbara Hepworth cast in her studio in St Ives, Cornwall. It’s nice that it’s here in Leeds, where Barbara studied in 1920 (at Leeds School of Art).

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Sign for Art — Keith Wilson, 2014

In the last few years, probably the most iconic, the “wobbly bacon” is one of the most photographed art works on campus. Professor Wilson, the artist said: “Immediately after leaving the Slade in the late 1980s, I worked for a year with deaf-blind adults as an art instructor. Drawing two spaced fingertips in a wave motion across the forehead of the student — a tactile ‘brainwave’ sign — announced the arrival of the artist, the subject of art, and the imminent activity of making art.”

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Meet, Sit and Talk — Lorna Green, 1995

Down in Chancellor’s Court by the Roger Stevens building are two sculptures — Conversation, and this one, part of Meet, Sit and Talk, which are three stone circles, each stone bearing a rectangle of polished granite reflecting the sky and surrounding environment. Green explains the sculpture ‘is intended to be used — for sitting, for meeting at and to create a socially interactive space’ and students can be seen lunching and revising among the stones on sunny days.

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Untitled Bas-Relief — Hubert Dalwood, 1961

Although you can now see this on our theatre Stage@Leeds, it was originally up at the University’s Bodington Hall of residence — affectionately known by generations of students as the Bod — for more than 50 years. Bodington Hall has long gone, but it’s lovely the sculpture arrived last May.

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Man-Made Fibres — Mitzi Cunliffe, 1956

High up on the Clothworker’s building south, is this amazing pair of hands, woven together by textile fabrics. It was unveiled by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1956. It’s really high up and easy to miss. You might recognise the style — Mitzi designed the BAFTA award!

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Converse Column — Liliane Lijn, 2019

Lijn’s nine-metre revolving column features text that transforms with movement and is our newest edition on campus. Located outside Nexus, our new innovation hub, it represents communication and is designed to inspire collaboration. It was created with involvement from staff and students who contributed ideas for the words.

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A Spire — Simon Fujiwara, 2015

Once upon a time, Leeds was a city of 1000 chimneys. Today, almost all of them have gone, and yet, outside the Laidlaw library is this. Nine metres tall, and made of pulverised coal, steel dust and copper, it’s also got much finer detail weaving through the brick. The grooves are branches and cables, and reflect the great digital city Leeds now is.

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Mechanical Engineering — Allan Johnson, 1963

Curving above the entrance of the Mechanical Engingeering building is the amazing glass fibre sculpture. It’s an abstract design, although if you look closely, it could be link mechanisms, perhaps! It was made by making a mould in clay, and it still has the clay-like texture. Allan Johnson was an architect, and had studied at Leeds College of Art and was involved with quite a few buildings on campus, including the Mechanical Engineering building.

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Wire Sculptures — Rachel Ducker, 2017

One of the newest installations on campus, and one you might not have seen yet. It’s in the amazing courtyard outside café on level 9, Worsley. If you’re a people watcher, you’ll love these — the expressionless figures display their emotion through their posture and the turbulent hair, blowing in an imaginary breeze. Grab a coffee at a café and check these out!

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The Dreamer — Quentin Bell, 1982

The levitating figure has been lying down for 26 years now, and amazingly not woken up, even though she’s been moved from by the Edward Boyle library, Baines Wing café and now where she gently floats above the floral displays in Clothworkers Court, next to the Great Hall. Quentin Bell was Professor of Fine Art in the 1960s, and he worked with Civil Engineering to design and install the work. It’s a lady who would have been part of a magician’s act, mysteriously levitating above a table before a wondrous audience. Today she’s a captivating sight in all weathers, basking in the afternoon sun, or shivering on a freezing January morning.

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Find more art on campus

Explore our collections online while our galleries are closed.

Read about our involvement in Yorkshire Sculpture International, a 100-day event that is the biggest dedicated sculpture festival in the world.

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