Sunday, 9 August 2015

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a stunning setting for outdoor art gallery and one that richly deserves a short mention here.

There isn't a route per say but the free guide points out a few of the highlights including work by Ai Weiwei, Antony Gormley (of Angel of the North fame) and Henry Moore so we decided on a quick circuit to make the most of our short visit.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park occupies the parkland of Bretton Hall near the village of West Bretton, a country house that housed Bretton Hall College. The present building was designed and built around 1720 by its owner, Sir William Wentworth. The hall was sold to the West Riding County Council in 1947.

We started by heading to the Chapel, originally built in 1744. Stood proud in the grounds is a sculpture of a tree made entirely from cast iron, 97 pieces in total, bolted together using a traditional Chinese technique. The tree is by artist Ai Weiwei and is his largest piece to date on long term loan to the sculpture park.
Ai Weiwei's tree
Close up of the separate parts
The Yorkshire Sculpture park is set around two artificial lakes, the small Upper Lake and the much larger Lower Lake. Numerous pathways criss-cross the park and we followed one down to the lake side, passing a number of sculptures by Henry Moore on the way - more about him later. An impressive cascade bridge crosses the two lakes, though no water was flowing through it due to some planned maintenance.
Henry Moore sculpture
Bretton Hall
Part of 'Promenade' by Anthony Caro
Guarding the end of the bridge is an unassuming figure, perched high upon a the woody remains of a dead tree. This is One and Other by Antony Gormley - the origin of the idea of the Fourth Plinth installation in Trafalgar Square. Antony Gormley is best known for works including the Angel of the North and Another Place on Crosby Beach near Liverpool. A maquette of the Angel of the North (still with a 5m wingspan) sold for over £3 million in 2011. Does make you wonder how much this chap is worth?
One and Other
One and Other
The sculpture high up on the tree
A wooded path circles the Upper Lake passing remaining features of the pleasure garden that was part of Bretton Hall including the obelisk and the shell grotto. The loop emerges at the end of the cascade bridge which we crossed and headed up the hill towards the main visitor centre, wending through numerous sculptures by renowned artists. The centre is guarded by a large Henry Moore sculpture, a white reclining figure titled, unsurprisingly "Reclining Figure".
The woods
The Upper Lake
Shell Grotto - part of the original Bretton Hall grounds
Lower Lake
'Ten Seated Figures' by Magdalena Abakanowicz
A number of the sculptures by Barbara Hepworth
'Reclining Figure' - Henry Moore
Henry Moore, born in Castleford in 1989, was a prominent sculptor until his death in 1986. Reclining figures were his signature piece and he often produced works to be displayed in public areas such as parks or city squares. These works often attracted vandals and many were damaged. One piece, insured for around £3m, was lifted from the Henry Moore Foundation's courtyard on to a lorry by a crane and has never been seen since. Bearing in mind this was a piece measuring 3m long, 3m high and 2m wide - that's a lot of sculpture to go missing.

That concluded our quick tour of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, or at least part of it. There's probably another half or so that we didn't have time to explore. It's a great place to unwind and wander around and, aside from the cost to park, it's free which - being in Yorkshire, very much appeals to the locals.

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