Yorkshire Sculpture International opens in Leeds and Wakefield

The inaugural edition of Yorkshire Sculpture International (YSI), the UK’s largest sculpture festival, will take place across Leeds and Wakefield this summer from June 22 until September 29, 2019. The free, 100-day festival will feature new commissions and sculpture outdoors in spaces across Leeds and Wakefield, and major exhibitions at each of the four partner venues—Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Featuring 18 international artists from 13 different countries, the programme will bring together artists who share an interest in harnessing the cultural histories and physical properties of the materials they use. New commissions and exhibitions will respond to a provocation made by artist Phyllida Barlow in 2018—that “sculpture is the most anthropological of the artforms.”

Highlights of the programme will include a new commission by Rashid Johnson at the Henry Moore Institute, and rarely-seen sculptures by preeminent Abstract Expressionist sculptor David Smith at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The Hepworth Wakefield will present a series of large-scale installations including new work by Wolfgang Laib and Tau Lewis’ first exhibition in the UK. Leeds Art Gallery will present a series of solo presentations and new commissions by artists including Nobuko Tsuchiya, and ambitious new collection displays will be presented at Leeds Art Gallery and The Hepworth Wakefield.

Yorkshire Sculpture International commissions include Huma Bhabha’s first public realm commission in the UK in Wakefield city centre, a site-specific sculpture by Ayşe Erkmen for Leeds Art Gallery’s central court, and new work by Tarek Atoui which will be presented in gallery spaces and through performances in public spaces in Leeds and Wakefield. Working almost entirely with figurative sculpture, Bhabha’s sculptures have a timeless quality, making connections between histories, languages and civilisations. Erkmen’s sculptural practice transforms environments as she responds to a particular place through eye catching interventions, often incorporating the architectural features of the location as part of the work. Atoui will create a series of performances exploring instrument-making, the material properties of sound and its connection to the body of the performer and those of the audience.

Yorkshire Sculpture International builds on Yorkshire’s rich history as the birthplace and home to pioneering sculptors including Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Damien Hirst, and YSI’s partner galleries’ celebrated sculpture collections. Major sculptures by Damien Hirst will be shown outdoors in Leeds city centre and at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and inside Leeds Art Gallery. Hirst grew up in Leeds and went on to study at Leeds College of Art in the early 1980s, as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore had done 60 years earlier.

Artists whose works will be exhibited during YSI include Tamar Harpaz, Rashid Johnson, Maria Loboda, Sean Lynch and Cauleen Smith at the Henry Moore Institute; Tarek Atoui, Ayşe Erkmen, Rachel Harrison, Damien Hirst, Joanna Piotrowska, and Nobuko Tsuchiya at Leeds Art Gallery; Tarek Atoui, Nairy Baghramian, Jimmie Durham, Wolfgang Laib and Tau Lewis at The Hepworth Wakefield; Damien Hirst, Kimsooja and David Smith at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Yorkshire Sculpture International has also developed an extensive public engagement programme, which supports artistic talent development in the region and introduces new audiences to sculpture. Working with schools, universities, artists and community partners to inspire and connect people with materials and making, exploring what it means to create sculpture today.

YSI has raised more than 1.5 million GBP, including a National Lottery funded Ambition for Excellence grant from Arts Council England and regional investment from Leeds 2023, Wakefield Council, Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds.