Yorkshire’s cultural offerings

After a recent visit to Yorkshire’s cultural delights (The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds; Leeds art Gallery and The Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield) I have something of retraction to make.

Anyone who has spoken to me in the last few weeks regarding this years RIBA Stirling Prize nominations will have heard me describe them as variously, “dull”, “limp”, “mawkish” and suggest that the prize should not be awarded in such years. Well, having now been to the Hepworth Gallery, I wish to back it for the Stirling Prize this year, it is brilliant.

I took a whole series of photographs which appear on my Flickr page, here.

It is a remarkable building (I’ll get onto the fantastic contents in moment) bold grey concrete sat partly in the river it is a dramatic presence.

across the water

The first view of the gallery from across the river


The approach from across a purpose built footbridge only adds to the impact. The interior is light, austere and a great backdrop for Barbara Hepworth’s work.


The approach to the gallery across the new footbridge


The thing that really struck me about the building’s interiors were the views out. Every gallery had a different sized floor to ceiling window giving you a view out onto the galleries surroundings. Marvellously placed and very much grounding the building in this “place”.


One view out towards Kirkgate Station


Another view looking towards the medieval bridge of Wakefield

Hepworth’s work I remember from a family holiday to St Ives whilst I was at art college. I visited the Tate St Ives, and Hepworth’s studio in St Ives, and I was inspired, and I still am inspired by Hepworth now. The bold forms the colours the use of thread, steel and wire to draw the eye into and through as well as around her work, everything about them makes you want to touch the forms. Of course you can’t do with the ones IN the gallery.


Plaster forms in one gallery


But the few placed outside in the equally well designed grounds sate that particular desire.


A series of works in the gallery grounds


The addition of the work of the likes of Henry Moore, and fellow St Ives artists places her work in great context. The addition of her work bench and maquettes from St Ives contribute to the genuineness of wonderfully genuine building and collection.

I also visited the Henry Moore Institute (HMI) in Leeds to see the small exhibition of Sarah Lucas’ work. With few key examples (Au Naturel [1994], Suffolk Bunny [1997-2004], Big Fat Anarchic Spider [1993]) and the addition of a number of new pieces this exhibition was worth seeing. However I am always a little disappointed by the HMI. It is very small space, it appears impressive in black granite from the outside, but lacks something on the interior.


The façade of the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds.


Rather more surprising for me was the Leeds Art Gallery. There is current exhibition celebrating the contribution that the Leeds Art Fund has made to the Gallery’s collection. The first gallery I encountered (after a rather nice lunch in the extravagant Tiled Hall) featured a number of interesting pieces of sculpture as part of the Centenary Exhibition of acquisitions by the Leeds Art Fund. A number of very good modern sculptures including work by Bob and Roberta Smith.

The true jewel in this particular visit was the Fiona Rae exhibition upstairs. I have to admit to have not heard of Rae before but I was pleasantly surprised by her bold work. Interspersed with depictions of cartoon like animals, all in bright sometimes fluorescent paints and on huge canvasses.

All worth a visit and all of course, wonderfully, free.

All my posts on this site also appear on my personal blog at http://aviewfromtheinterior.net/


About Michael Coates

Michael is a Principal Lecturer for Contextual Studies at the Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, and a PhD student in architecture history at the Univeristy of Sheffield.

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