Outdoor art will be at centre of biggest exhibition

Phyllida Barlow at The Hepworth, Wakefield. Picture by Tony Johnson
Phyllida Barlow at The Hepworth, Wakefield. Picture by Tony Johnson
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It will be the biggest celebration of sculpture the country has seen, and, it is revealed today, reshape the centre of three Yorkshire cities.

Leeds, Wakefield and a third centre yet to be identified will host “major new commissions” of large, outdoor art as part of a “Year of Sculpture” that will culminate in a summer-long festival across four venues.

News of the commissions, which will remain in place for three months and whose creators will be unveiled in the autumn, are the first details to emerge from organisers of the event, which was announced last summer by Arts Council England.

It awarded £750,000 to Leeds Art Gallery, the neighbouring Henry Moore Institute, the Hepworth Wakefield and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to stage a three-yearly event from 2019 that will be known as the Yorkshire Sculpture International, with the aim of cementing the county’s place as a world centre for art.

The event will run from next June 22 to September 29, as part of an all-year programme that will also involve schools and see commissions given to a handful of professional artists.

Jane Bhoyroo, the event’s producer, said the programme so far was “incredibly exciting” and would “put the region on the international map for sculpture”.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s the first major project that has involved all four institutions on anything like this scale.

“What’s so excited is that we’re going to have these major new outdoor sculpture commissions and exhibitions across the four venues.”

Invitations have been extended to three sculptors to produce the outdoor works, whose exact locations and subject matter is under wraps for the time being.

“We’ve worked together to come up with three favourite artists who we’d like to invite to the party,” said Ms Bhoyroo, a Londoner who moved to Yorkshire in 2010 and who was recruited to run the festival from Leeds Art Gallery, where she was a curator.

“They will be temporary amenities but there will be at least one in Leeds, one in Wakefield and a third which is we are still finalising,” she said.

Phyllida Barlow, the 73-year-old Newcastle-born sculptor who represented Britain at this summer’s Venice Biennale, and whose gargantuan creations have taken the creative world by storm, conceived the theme for the inaugural event, which organisers describe as “the basic human need to make and connect with objects”.

Ms Barlow said her aim was to question “the rich potential of what sculpture can be – the more confrontational, surprising, difficult and thought-provoking, the better”.

She added: “Yorkshire Sculpture International is an imaginative initiative which will provide a challenging and inspirational opportunity to give priority to what sculpture is now, who it is for, what it is, and where and how it is located.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, said: “The Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle is already considered the UK’s home of sculpture.

“This event will significantly strengthen the region’s international profile as a cultural destination.”