Wakefield District – the Home for Sculpture

Where would you find two internationally recognised art galleries which are past winners of the acclaimed Arts Fund Museum of the Year award? 

Which place this summer has played host to the first Yorkshire International Festival and Index Sculpture festival?

Which places are famous for being the birthplaces of two acclaimed British sculptors?

Well, the answers all lie here in the Wakefield district, the Home of Sculpture. 

This year sees the 40th anniversary of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, a truly extraordinary art gallery without walls set in the stunning park amongst 500 acres of rolling Yorkshire countryside.

The sculpture park has also seen the opening of a new visitor centre, The Weston, which was recently shortlisted for the major national architectural award, the RIBA Stirling Prize.

Barbara Hepworth at YSP

Watch out later in the year to see whether they become the first winners of the prize from Wakefield!

The summer saw the opening of the new Hepworth Garden adjacent to the famous Hepworth Wakefield art gallery.  This beautiful new public garden creates a stunning entrance to the gallery and will feature a rolling programme of outdoor sculpture and special events for all the family to enjoy.

The summer also celebrated the first-ever Yorkshire Sculpture International festival presenting a phenomenal range of inspiring and challenging exhibitions.

Over 100 days there has been artist talks, creative workshops and special sculptures for day visits to two local schools. The New York-based artist Huma Bhaba’s Receiver, situated outside County Hall in Wakefield, certainly created a talking point!

Across the district, we saw the first Index Sculpture festival which presented an eclectic programme of sculpture inspired community events, such as a family event to experience swimming with floatable sculpture, to boats decorated with sculptures travelling from Castleford to Knottingley.

It doesn’t end there as we welcomed the out of this world experience of artist Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon, a giant, seven-metre wide, illuminated scale replica of the moon at the former Market Hall in Wakefield.

We celebrated its two-week stay with an incredible programme of events and activities from a special performance by the cult band, Public Service Broadcasting; two talks by Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut and special guest the Clangers.

Sean Henry seated figure YSP 29-7-19 Photo byLEE WARD

In addition, we challenged our local artists to be inspired by the moon and to deliver a series of commissions from music, exhibitions, dance, theatre to an inter-generational choir. 

The district is also blessed with outstanding public art and decorative buildings. To celebrate Kevin Trickett, President of Wakefield Civic Society has launched a walking book this summer called the Wakefield City of Sculpture and Public Art.  The book, available from local book shops, is a great guide to get out there and explore the diverse art we have available to us on our doorstep.

Oh, and if you don’t know, the two famous artists were born in Castleford and Wakefield. They were Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

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