The inaugural edition of Yorkshire Sculpture International (YSI), the UK’s largest dedicated sculpture festival, opened on June 22, 2019. The festival is taking place across Leeds and Wakefield and will continue till September 29, 2019. YSI features public commissions outdoors across Leeds and Wakefield and major exhibitions at each of the four partner venues that together comprise the ‘Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle’ – Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Featuring 18 international artists from 13 different countries, the programme brings together artists who share an interest in harnessing the cultural histories and physical properties of the materials they use. New commissions and exhibitions respond to a provocation made by artist Phyllida Barlow in 2018 – that ‘sculpture is the most anthropological of the art forms’. Highlights include new commissions by Rashid Johnson at the Henry Moore Institute, and rarely-seen sculptures by pre-eminent abstract expressionist sculptor David Smith at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The Hepworth Wakefield presents a series of large-scale installations including new work by Wolfgang Laib and Tau Lewis’ first exhibition in the UK. Leeds Art Gallery presents ambitious new collection displays, a series of solo presentations and new commissions by artists including Nobuko Tsuchiya. Major new works by Huma Bhabha, Ayşe Erkmen and Tarek Atoui liven the public realm in Wakefield and Leeds. Alongside the commissioned YSI programme, sculptures by Damien Hirst are on display in Leeds city centre, Leeds Art Gallery and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Huma Bhabha is presenting a major new sculpture, a large-scale bronze work titled Receiver, 2019, installed outside County Hall in the centre of Wakefield. Receiver is Bhabha’s first public realm commission in the UK and is on display for the duration of the festival. Working almost entirely with figurative sculpture, Bhabha’s approach is unconventional and cross-cultural, making connections between histories, languages and civilisations. Ayşe Erkmen, on the other hand, has created a site-specific sculpture for Leeds Art Gallery’s Central Court that responds to the many architectural changes that have taken place throughout the life of the building. Erkmen has transformed the Central Court by adding a new ceiling that reaches all the way down to this later added floor, highlighting how site-specific interventions draw our attention to locations and things that are often overlooked. Further, Tarek Atoui is working with musicians based in Yorkshire and international instrument makers to create performances that continue his exploration of the material properties of sound, its connection to the body of the performer and the audience, as well as his interest in the invention of new instruments and instrument-making.
At the Leeds Art Gallery, a series of solo shows and new commissions explore the breadth of contemporary sculpture-making. The gallery is also exhibiting a major re-display of their sculpture collections in the Large Sculpture Gallery to accompany the individual artists’ presentations.
Alongside the programme, major sculptures by Damien Hirst are being shown at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Leeds Art Gallery and in Leeds city centre.
YSI has developed an extensive engagement programme that 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.