There’s the Bermuda Triangle, the isosceles triangles, the love triangle and now there’s….the Sculpture Triangle.
A clever marketing concept that serves to highlight just how much art can be enjoyed in — and has come out of – a mere 20-mile radius in Yorkshire. It’s also the perfect excuse to head up north to visit the UK’s largest county, on a weekend break with a cultural bent.
First stop on the triangle trail is the Hepworth Gallery (pictured above and below) in Wakefield; a city which is also in the ‘rhubarb triangle’, so called because – you guessed it – this corner of West Yorkshire is known for growing that most unusual of vegetables. Despite the fact that Wakefield holds a rhubarb festival every February, if we’re really honest there was probably little reason to stop in before the Hepworth Gallery was built.
Having said that, the bold and distinctively box-ey structure did meet with some scepticism when it first appeared in 2011. One of the museum attendants, a local lass, tells me:
“A lot of people here complained about it when it was first built, but it has definitely grown on most people now.”
It also proved a big success: the Hepworth is one of the most visit galleries in Britain. And rightly so, as it’s a fantastic place. The bright and modern space is attractive and cleverly laid out, featuring work of such artists as Henry Moore, LS Lowry, Jacob Epstein as part of the permanent collection.
The highlight of the visit is the Barbara Hepworth room back in the main gallery. Featuring some truly impressive pieces, it provides a concise retrospective of the Wakefield-born sculptor and includes models and photos of her works from around the world.
And so onto Leeds, the attractive – if foggy – city that as one point of the triangle is also home of two of its attractions; The Henry Moore Institute and the Leeds Art Gallery. It is also in striking distance of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park which we will visit tomorrow. Tonight, however, we are seeking strictly non-art action.
Though it’s one of the largest UK cities, Leeds’ centre is compact and easy to grasp. A good way to take stock of the city is with a drink and the view at the Sky Lounge, on the top floor of the Hilton. From here we take a short stroll along the River Aire for French food that hits a nice compromise between traditional and accessible, at Brasserie Blanc.
In seeking post-dinner pints we stumble across the Call Lane area, where a cluster of low-key independent bars and pubs serve the many students who reside in the city. It’s not until we reach Brudenell Social Club, however, that we find our Leeds ‘local’. A live music venue of some note, it is also a damn fine watering hole with a casually buzzing atmosphere, a nice selection of beers and outdoor seating. Just the place to nurse a pint and debate the finer points of Moore’s oeuvre. Or not.
IMAGE: Millennium Square Hands, Leeds
Day two is wall-to-wall art. The morning begins with a double-hit, as we take the easy walk (everything in Leeds seems to be an easy walk) to the Leeds Art Gallery. In contrast to the Hepworth, the Leeds gallery is a fixture of the city, first opened in the 19th century and boasting a varied collection of exhibits spanning the classic to the cutting edge.
Adjoining via a corridor is the Henry Moore Institute, established by one of the most recognised sculptors in the world — whose work is often said to be influenced by the curves of his native Yorkshire landscape. Moore established his Foundation, of which the Institute is a section, to ensure that Leeds would forever more have access to a wealth of sculpture that didn’t exist when he was a young artist. As well as boasting its own collection, library and education program the Institute is also charged with curating the sculpture section of the Leeds Art gallery.
Both the Moore Institute and Art Gallery are free, so it’d be silly not to visit — even if you are not a fan of art. Why? The Tiled Hall cafe – originally used as a reading room for the Central Library, which is located in the same complex — is an absolute delight. Renovated in 2007 to its current tiled, marbled and columned resplendence, it surely one of the most decorative and atmospheric places in the city to grab a light lunch or early dinner.
IMAGE: Tiled Hall cafe
As much as we’d like to, there’s no time for lingering – there is more art to see. A mere half hour drive away is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, an idea so simple it’s impossible not to love. Art! Outside! Around since 1977, the free attraction features over 60 sculptures spread over a stunning 500-acre property and is open year round.
We luck out with a cold but clear afternoon, but even on a bleak day a visit is warranted as there are five indoor galleries and a lovely cafe with a view. In fact, even if for some reason you hate art and beautiful parks, I daresay you’ll find Richard Hiorns’ piece ‘Seizure’ is most definitely worth a gander. The work answers the question: what happens if you let blue crystals take over a (real) council flat? The bizarre apartment-sized sculpture is housed on the YSP grounds and is a happy bonus to the already impressive collection.
IMAGE: Yorkshire Sculpture Park
And so, the triangle is complete. How else to top off a weekend of sculpture-spotting than to enjoy some of Yorkshire’s culinary offerings? Don’t scoff — the county is about much more than the famed Yorkshire pud. The Blacker Hall Farm Shop, conveniently located just down the road from the Sculpture Park, is the perfect place to sample local wares and shop for edible souvenirs. There’s an in-store cafe for dining; but we opt to stock up on local ingredients and design our own edible artwork on the picnic tables out front.
Returning home with our eyes and bellies appeased, I’m grateful for the excuse to discover the riches of sculpture and art in Yorkshire. Whatever shape it was in.
Leeds is just over 2 hours from London Kings Cross by train. Wakefield and the Sculpture Park are easily accessible via train and bus. For more information about the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle see: YSP.co.uk
TOP IMAGE: In celebration of their 40th anniversary in 2017, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park presents Ai Weiwei’s ‘Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads’ (2010), a dramatic group of 12 bronze animal heads that has been on a worldwide tour since May 2011, making a colossal migration through Europe, Asia and the Americas. (Photo by Charlotte Graham / Guzelian – courtesy YSP.co.uk)