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The Biggest Sculpture Festival in the UK Has Taken Over Yorkshire

· Emma Cooke · Culture

A brand new arts festival has taken over Leeds and Wakefield.

Damien Hirst, Yorkshire Sculpture Festival

Four of Yorkshire’s biggest art galleries have come together to host the region’s first ever sculpture festival.

This summer, the first-ever Yorkshire Sculpture International is taking place across Leeds and Wakefield. The fun has already started and will continue until Sunday 29th September 2019 with a string of specially-made art installations, family-friendly workshops and film screenings. In fact, there’s so much going on that it’s already the biggest sculpture festival in the UK.

The aim of the festival is to celebrate the region’s rich sculpting heritage with a series of high profile exhibitions and events. You can see installations by international artists alongside works from local favourites like Damien Hirst and Barbara Hepworth. And because it’s spread across multiple venues in Leeds, Wakefield and beyond, this is much more than just one day out.

Wolfgang Laib, Yorkshire Sculpture Festival

The artist line-up covers 15 artists from 12 different countries, each with their own unique influences. Korean artist Kimsooja has transformed the Chapel at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, using a combination of mirrors, projections and sounds to create a soothing, meditative space. Wolfgang Laib has taken an entirely different approach. The German artist has filled with an entire room at The Hepworth with delicately placed piles of rice and pollen, collected from the fields outside his home.

Yorkshire Sculpture International will also showcase three brand new commissions. First up is Karachi-born artist Huma Bhabha. She has used materials like Styrofoam packing, clay and cork to create a statue that has been cast in bronze and painted in graffiti-like style. ‘Receiver’ is an ambiguous figure influenced by the past, present and future.

Huma Bhabha, Yorkshire Sculpture Festival

Credit: Jerry Hardman-Jones

Ayşe Erkmen’s sculpture is a huge steel framework that fills the Central Courtroom at Leeds Art Gallery. Her site-specific interventions are designed to draw attention to the hidden contours of the room, prompting you to reimagine it in new ways. This piece changes the shape of the ceiling and arches the walls. It’s almost like seeing a brand new skeleton inside the original body.

Completing the trio is sound artist and composer Tarek Atoul, and his brand new take on sound-making. He’s bringing the musical community together for The Shuffle Orchestra, a series of performances that explore the possibilities of creating sound in unconventional ways with brand new instruments. You can see the performances yourself in spectacular settings like Wakefield Cathedral.

Aysę Erkman, Yorkshire Sculpture Festival

Credit: Jerry Hardman-Jones

But there’s more to Yorkshire Sculpture International than the art itself. You can get a glimpse behind the scenes of Kimsooja’s meditative installation with an exclusive artist talk at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Smaller independents like Hyde Park Picture House are getting involved too – from Damien Hirst’s ground-breaking concepts to Barbara Hepworth’s distinctive abstract pieces, they’re showing a series of short films championing Yorkshire’s sculpting icons.

The little ones can also take part with plenty of family-friendly events. The highlight is the Summer Fair at The Hepworth, which promises creative workshops, story-telling and music by Yorkshire-based artists. If you want to encourage their creativity, you can take them to build their own sculptures at Outdoor Sculpture Building: Come Rain, Come Shine at Yorkshire Sculpture Park or to try their hand at creative writing at Object Stories at Henry Moore Institute.

Yorkshire Sculpture International 2019 takes place until Sunday 29th September 2019.