Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Damien Hirst Review

The Yorkshire Sculpture Festival will be taking place for the first time, this summer, from June 22nd to September 29th, it has been publicised as the UK’s largest festival dedicated to sculpture, and will be free for everyone to attend. The 100-day festival will display sculptures from various artists across the world, aiming to build upon Yorkshire’s rich history of prolific and pioneering artists such as sculptors, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, who were both born and raised in Yorkshire.

The festival is an exciting collaboration between the four world renowned galleries that form the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle; the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, the Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. All four galleries are only a 30-minute drive, bus or train journey from each other, enabling these incredible locations to be visited within a day, for a full cultural experience filled with work displayed from 200 of the world’s greatest artists.

“The festival will showcase sculpture in all its forms” as well as exploring what it means to create sculpture in today’s day and age, from creating site specific work to commissions working with local communities in Leeds and Wakefield, as well as showcasing “new work by international artists to sculpture drawn from our world class collections”. It has been promised by the producer of Yorkshire Sculpture Festival (Jane Bhoyroo) that the festival itself will “be something special, memorable and game changing for Yorkshire’s growing art scene”.

Damien Hirst will be making a highly anticipated return to the Yorkshire art scene, since his first solo exhibition in Yorkshire in 2011 at the Leeds Art Gallery, which produced 11,000 visitors within the first week. Seven of Hirst’s sculptures will be displayed within the Yorkshire Sculpture Festival, some sculptures will be placed in Leeds Art Gallery and the city centre of Leeds as well as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park itself.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park are aiming to engage and inspire a mass audience through the art of sculpture, and along with multiple artists from all across the world, Hirst’s work “will play a key role in achieving this” through his accessible and highly popular work. The Turner Prize winner grew up in Leeds and also attended Leeds Arts University (then known as Jacob Kramer College) following the footsteps of Hepworth and Moore. Hirst looks back upon many visits to Leeds Art Gallery, as ‘happy and important’ as well as ‘opening his mind to art’. Additionally, Hirst states that these exhibitions ‘made him so excited for what art could be’ and were important for developing Hirst’s passion for art as well as his own ideas.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s beautiful landscape and scenery will be dotted with a contrasting, eclectic and colourful array of some of the country’s finest sculptures. The four Hirst sculptures that will be in the park will be presented within the newly revived 18th century Deer Park. ‘Virgin Mother’ will be placed in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park with the beautiful backdrop of the lower lake of the park. ‘Virgin Mother’ is a 10-metre-high sculpture of a pregnant woman who resembles Edgar Degas’ ‘Little Dancer of Fourteen Years’, and has a large cross section which reveals the anatomy of the body including a foetus inside the womb.

‘Charity’, a sculpture which questions and challenges the outdated ways of presenting disability and seeking charity, will be placed near the recently opened visitor centre, the Weston Building. The Weston Building is a beautiful construction with natural light streaming through and filling the space. It aims to have minimal environmental impact upon the site as well as striving to fit in with the historic and natural landscape; the smooth curves, shapes and colours of the concrete building evoke the layers of the surrounding sandstone. Hirst’s sculpture will be a fascinating juxtaposing contrast to this natural landscape and building.

In addition to this, ‘Myth’, a white unicorn with one half of its skin revealing vibrant red muscles and tissues, will stand high on a classical plinth within the park, shocking the viewer through disrupting the familiar narrative of sculptures of horses. Another exciting addition to the Yorkshire landscape will be, ‘The Hat Makes the Man’, a bronze cast sculpture which presents the idea of sculptural collage through recreating Max Ernst’s 1920’s collage of the same name.

Hirst spent a lot of his younger years on Ilkley Moor and Otley Chevin, and always had a strong admiration for the Yorkshire landscape, where he grew up, and therefore believes that his sculptures “are where they belong” and were “made for that setting”. The Yorkshire Sculpture Festival is a fantastic opportunity to witness the world class artist’s return to Yorkshire as well as an excellent way to be immersed into the beauty of Yorkshire and the wide variety of sculptures that will be on display.