Ten reasons why Yorkshire is the UK's capital of sculpture

Discover the sculpture connections of this unique destination for sculpture lovers and why you need to visit now

By The Hepworth Wakefield

David Smith, Untitled (Candida) (1965) by David SmithThe Hepworth Wakefield

West Yorkshire

We're celebrating sculpture in Yorkshire, UK. Specifically West Yorkshire - and the sculptural connections and galleries that can be discovered thirty minutes apart in Leeds and Wakefield. Read on to find out why Yorkshire can claim to be the sculpture capital of the UK. 

Barbara Hepworth at Robin Hood's Bay, Yorkshire (1925/1925) by Unknown photographerThe Hepworth Wakefield

1. Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975), one of the most important artists of the 20th century, was born in Wakefield. Her father was a surveyor for West Riding County Council, and Hepworth accompanied him on his inspections of local roads and bridges. At Wakefield Girls’ High School Hepworth was inspired by seeing images of Egyptian sculpture and encouraged by the headteacher, Miss McCroben, to apply for a scholarship to Leeds School of Art, which she attended with Henry Moore. Following this, in 1921, she began her studies at the Royal College of Art in London.

Henry Moore (1949) by Gjon MiliLIFE Photo Collection

2. Henry Moore

Henry Spencer Moore (1898-1986) was one of the most important British artists of the twentieth century and arguably the most internationally celebrated sculptor of the period. Moore was born in Castleford, a small mining town in Yorkshire, in 1898. After training to be a teacher and serving in the British Army he studied with Barbara Hepworth at Leeds School of Art and then the Royal College of Art, London. By the 1950s Moore had begun to receive a number of international commissions. He continued working in sculpture, drawing, printmaking and textile design until his death in 1986.

Damien Hirst, Hymn (1999/2005) by Damien HirstThe Hepworth Wakefield

3. Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst grew up in Leeds, attending Allerton Grange High School. He went on to study at Leeds College of Art (then Jacob Kramer College) in the early 1980s, as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore had done 60 years earlier. Hirst first came to public attention in 1988 when he conceived and curated the group exhibition ‘Freeze’, an exhibition of his own work and that of his fellow contemporaries at Goldsmiths’ College. Hirst has become widely recognised as one of the most influential artists of his generation. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995 and his outstanding contribution to British art was acknowledged in a major solo retrospective exhibition at Tate Modern, London in 2012.

Henry Moore Institute (2019) by Nathan ChandlerThe Hepworth Wakefield

4. Henry Moore Institute

Dedicated to celebrating sculpture, the Henry Moore Institute welcomes everyone to experience, study and enjoy sculpture in Leeds, the city where Henry Moore began his training as a sculptor. The international research centre, located next door to Leeds Art Gallery, has a changing programme of historical, modern and contemporary exhibitions and events and presents sculpture from across the world.

Tamar Harpaz, Current (2019) by Tamar HarpazThe Hepworth Wakefield

Sean Lynch, The Rise and Fall of Flint Jack (2019) by Sean LynchThe Hepworth Wakefield

Ayşe Erkmen, three of four (2019-06) by Ayşe ErkmenThe Hepworth Wakefield

5. Leeds Art Gallery

Originally opened in 1888 and having recently reopened after extensive refurbishment, Leeds Art Gallery can be found next door to the Henry Moore Institute. With free entry, displays of their world-class collection alongside a changing programme of dynamic temporary exhibitions throughout the year, the gallery is one of the city’s most visited attractions.

Nobuko Tsuchiya at Leeds Art Gallery (2019) by Nobuko TsuchiyaThe Hepworth Wakefield

Joanna Piotrowska at Leeds Art Gallery (2019) by Joanna PiotrowskaThe Hepworth Wakefield

The Hepworth Wakefield (2011/2011) by David Chipperfield ArchitectsThe Hepworth Wakefield

6. The Hepworth Wakefield

This award-winning art gallery is set within Wakefield’s historic waterfront overlooking the River Calder. Designed by the acclaimed David Chipperfield Architects, the gallery opened in May 2011 and won Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017. Their free, public garden, designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, opened recently. Named after Barbara Hepworth, one of the most important artists of the 20th century who was born and brought up in Wakefield, the gallery presents major exhibitions of the best international modern and contemporary art and has dedicated galleries exploring Hepworth’s art and working process.

Installation shot of work by Wolfgang Laib at The Hepworth Wakefield (2019) by Wolfgang LaibThe Hepworth Wakefield

Installation shot of work by Tau Lewis at The Hepworth Wakefield (2019) by Tau LewisThe Hepworth Wakefield

David Smith, Untitled (Candida) (1965) by David SmithThe Hepworth Wakefield

7. Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the leading international centre for modern and contemporary sculpture, set within the 500-acre, 18th-century Bretton Hall estate in West Yorkshire. Founded in 1977, YSP was the first sculpture park in the UK, and is the largest of its kind in Europe, providing the only place in Europe to see Barbara Hepworth’s The Family of Man in its entirety alongside a significant collection of sculpture, including bronzes by Henry Moore, and site-specific works by Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash and James Turrell.  YSP was named Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2014 and celebrated its 40th birthday in 2017.

David Smith exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, installation view (2019) by David SmithThe Hepworth Wakefield

Damien Hirst, The Virgin Mother (2005 - 2006) by Damien HirstThe Hepworth Wakefield

Hepworth Family Gift (2011/2017) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield

8. Celebrated sculpture collections

Yorkshire plays host to some very impressive sculpture  collections. Leeds Art Gallery has one of the most significant collections of 20th century British art outside London. The Hepworth Wakefield houses Wakefield's art collection, which consists of more thank 5000 works and galleries dedicated to the work of Barbara Hepworth.

Installation shot from Woodwork: A Family Tree of Sculpture at Leeds Art Gallery (2019-03-29/2019-03-29) by photography by Simon WarnerThe Hepworth Wakefield

The sculpture collection at Leeds Art Gallery

Huma Bhabha, Receiver (2019) by Huma BhabhaThe Hepworth Wakefield

9. Yorkshire Sculpture International

In summer 2019, the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park presented the first Yorkshire Sculpture International – the UK’s largest dedicated sculpture festival, a series of exhibitions, international commissions, events and learning programmes not seen on a scale anywhere else – with sculpture in its broadest forms on display across the four galleries and outdoors in Leeds and Wakefield. 

Yorkshire Sculpture International (2019) by Yorkshire Sculpture InternationalThe Hepworth Wakefield

David Smith, Gondola II (1964) by David SmithThe Hepworth Wakefield

10. A bright future for sculpture in Yorkshire

It is hoped Yorkshire Sculpture International will become a regularly occurring festival, with partners already discussing long-term plans for future sculpture events in Leeds and Wakefield. Some elements of the festival are still on display in Yorkshire and with the galleries open all year round, sculpture lovers have so many reasons to make Yorkshire their next holiday destination. 

The installation of Ayşe Erkmen, three of four at Central Court, Leeds Art Gallery (2019) by Ayşe ErkmenThe Hepworth Wakefield

Ayşe Erkmen's installation three of four commissioned by Yorkshire Sculpture International for the central court at Leeds Art Gallery will remain on display until September 2020.

Damien Hirst, Black Sheep with Golden Horns (2009) by Damien HirstThe Hepworth Wakefield

Damien Hirst, Black Sheep with Golden Horns, 2009, which was on display at Leeds Art Gallery for Yorkshire Sculpture International will stay in the gallery until June 2020.

Huma Bhabha, Receiver (2019) by Huma BhabhaThe Hepworth Wakefield

Huma Bhabha's sculpture Receiver, commissioned by Yorkshire Sculpture International for Wakefield city centre is now on display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield.

David Smith, Gondola II (1964) by David SmithThe Hepworth Wakefield

David Smith: Sculpture 1932–1965 is on display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park until 5 January 2020.

Damien Hirst, Charity (2002/2003) by Damien HirstThe Hepworth Wakefield

Four sculptures by Damien Hirst will remain on display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park until April 2022.

Yorkshire Sculpture International (2019) by Yorkshire Sculpture InternationalThe Hepworth Wakefield

Credits: Story

Yorkshire Sculpture International would especially like to thank our major funders Arts Council England through the National Lottery funded Ambition for Excellence grant, Leeds 2023, Wakefield Council, Leeds Beckett University and University of Leeds. We are also extremely grateful to Reed Smith, the Henry Moore Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Freelands Foundation, Ernest Cook Trust, ArtUK, Leeds City College, Wakefield College, LeedsBID, Victoria Leeds, Leeds Hotels & Venues Association and Welcome to Yorkshire. We also thank Terra Foundation for American Art, Hauser & Wirth, Japan Foundation, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Fluxus and Culture Ireland for their support with the exhibitions.

Particular thanks are due to our colleagues from Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park for their expertise and collaborative vision, to the commitment of the Yorkshire Sculpture International team, the exhibiting artists and the Henry Moore Foundation for its support throughout the exhibition.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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