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More than a million people saw Yorkshire’s first ever sculpture festival

  • 29th October 2019
  • Posted by Leeds 2023

Showing outdoor sculptures by Damien Hirst in Leeds and at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, commissioning New York-based artist Huma Bhabha to create a new work for Wakefield city centre and presenting work by internationally renowned artists at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park all contributed towards the free event’s ground-breaking success.

The audience figure includes people who visited a gallery or saw one of the sculptures in the two city centres.

YSI’s extensive engagement programme, the Year of Sculpture, started in 2018 and featured group visits, artist-led workshops and took sculpture into schools, reaching over 19,000 students across the two cities from primary schools, secondary schools and further education colleges, more than 2,900 university students and over 11,000 family groups.

In total, around 47,000 people took part in sculpture-related events and 7,000 people from community groups across Yorkshire became involved in the 100 day festival. YSI worked with 39 artists from Yorkshire to deliver sculpture talks, workshops and projects across the region. The programme also ran an Associate Artist scheme, enabling five artists from Yorkshire to create new work and aid their professional development.

YSI has also announced that four sculptures by Damien Hirst, who grew up in Leeds and studied at Leeds College of Art, will remain at Yorkshire Sculpture Park until 2022 and Black Sheep with Golden Horns (2009) will be on display at Leeds Art Gallery until June 2020.

Damien Hirst said: “It’s been great having my work there for the festival, but I’m really pleased the sculptures are going to have a while longer at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I’ve loved seeing the response to them in that setting and it blew me away when I first saw them there. Also the sheep in Leeds Art Gallery, which was an important place to me when I was growing up – I’m so pleased it’ll be there for a few years now.”

Ayşe Erkmen’s site-specific sculpture for Leeds Art Gallery’s Central Court, three of four (2019) will remain on display until September 2020. Huma Bhabha’s Receiver (2019), installed outside County Hall in the centre of Wakefield for the duration of the festival, is now at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

It is hoped the festival will become a regularly occurring event with partners already discussing long-term plans for future sculpture events in Leeds and Wakefield as well as playing a key part in Leeds 2023 and its international year of culture.

Jane Bhoyroo, Producer of YSI, said: “We have been blown away by the reaction to the first festival. All the partners have been incredible and worked together to create something special. We are delighted that so many people experienced sculpture over the summer. Yorkshire Sculpture International has made a real statement that West Yorkshire is the home of sculpture in the UK.”

The event’s commissions and exhibitions featured 18 artists from 13 different countries as organisers joined forces with key partners including major funders, Arts Council England, along with Leeds 2023, Wakefield Council, Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds.

Kully Thiarai, Creative Director of Leeds 2023, said: “Hosting the first Yorkshire Sculpture International has shown what can be done on the national and international stage, demonstrating our city’s ability to showcase the work of renowned, international artists in a new, inventive and accessible way. Bringing culture to life for the people and communities of Leeds is at the absolute core of our ambitions for Leeds 2023, and it’s clear that the public have an appetite to participate in, engage with and support ambitious ideas and artistic endeavours. We look forward to working with YSI in our evolving vision for what will be a landmark year for the arts in the city.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, Arts Council England Chair, said: “Yorkshire Sculpture International has been an outstanding success, presenting both internationally recognised and emerging sculptors across Leeds and Wakefield. It’s particularly rewarding to support four of the UK’s leading art institutions, so that they can work together to build on the rich history of sculpture in West Yorkshire. The International provided an exceptional platform for five emerging Yorkshire artists and realised an innovative engagement programme with young people, teachers and communities in these cities. I look forward to future editions of Yorkshire Sculpture International.”


IMAGE: Artist Bijan Amini-Alavijeh working with Meeting Point on a collaborative sculpture as part of Yorkshire Sculpture International 2019. Photography Nick SingletonS