There can’t be too many places in the UK where you can tuck into some dinner overlooking 500 acres of rolling countryside scattered with Henry Moore sculptures.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park is an exceptional place.
The open air installations – there’s always 80 on show! – can be found in all corners of the park with some strikingly visible and others deceptively hidden. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s exhibitions bring the very best of international and homegrown artists together in a carefully curated line-up that changes every year.
We would recommend putting aside 4 hours (or more) to look around Yorkshire Sculpture Park. There is a lot to see, and you will most certainly get your steps in!
Take a look around
Things to Note
Yorkshire Sculpture Park has the following on-site or nearby:
- Accessible Toilets
- Bird Hides
- Disabled Access
- Disabled Parking
- Dog Waste Bins
- On-site Food and Drink
- On-site Toilets
- Pushchair Access
- Rubbish Bins
Yorkshire Sculpture Park is located between Leeds and Wakefield in West Yorkshire. It is a sprawling 500 acres of rolling countryside with modern sculptures throughout. Like the art there’s no boundaries to where the visitors flock from UK and international locations. The park is open daily except on the 24th-25th December.
Things to Do
Look At The Sculptures
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a world leader in modern and contemporary sculpture in both the open air and scheduled exhibition format.
The open air collection guarantees 80 sculptures and installations on show at any one time. Here’s a selection of 20 of the sculptures:
‘Iron Tree’ is Ai Weiwei’s 2014 exhibition legacy. Inspired by Chinese wood sellers this piece is a complex one that explores the sum of its own parts. Without the fragments, the whole wouldn’t exist.
Six Mourners and The Alone
‘Six Mourners and The Alone’ is Amar Kanwar’s immersive exploration of the human and environmental cost of industry. Using timber from the YSP chapel, Amar has produced sculptural forms inspired by Yorkshire’s industrial past.
‘Dream City’ by Sir Anthony Caro is a creative synthesis between sculpture and architecture. Imagine you’re on a rooftop in New York or Tokyo.
The Family of Man
‘The Family of Man’ is Barbara Hepworth’s abstract take on the family. The upright figures represent one another like the binding of family.
All Schools Should be Art Schools
‘All Schools Should be Art Schools’ rings the alarm on the erasure of art and creativity in mainstream schooling. Michael Gove – a Tory politician for anyone that is fortunate not to know – proposed removing Art from the GCSE curriculum. An incendiary move that inspired this piece.
Ha Ha Bridge
‘Ha Ha Bridge’ is Brian Fell’s simply designed sculpture; with multi layered meaning. Think about those times when you’re hit a barrier and all that escapes you is an irksome round of laughter. Or the pure bliss we feel when with nature. It’s in this work of art.
Seventy One Steps
‘Seventy One Steps’ is a grand project from a regular YSP residence – David Nash. The walking route to Longside (via Oxley) has been transformed. 71 huge oak trees shadow the edge of the 71 steps that connects two sides of the hill and the four YSP galleries. The impressive engineering behind this piece won’t be appreciated for years to come. Embedded between the steps is 30 tonnes of coal that will disintegrate and force a gradual change in the lay of the land. Keep coming back to this one with open eyes.
Trees: From Alternative Landscape Components
‘Trees: From Alternative Landscape Components’ is a nod towards human creation in a natural and artificial environment. Toilets slung up in the air on rods against the backdrop of the Yorkshire countryside – just sit with that for a moment!
‘Vulcan’ by Eduardo Paolozzi, has channeled the Roman god of fire and rebooted his fable with an industrial age theme. The half man half machina vibe sits nicely alongside the original story of Vulcan – he was said to have a broken lame leg due to being thrown from Mount Olympus by his mother.
Large Spindle Piece
‘Large Spindle Piece’ by Henry Moore is a real origin piece from the world renowned and Yorkshire born sculpture. The Large Spindle Piece is inspired by a piece of flint Henry found near his home. Henry’s allure of the way Michelangelo harnessed points of tension in his work is said to have influenced the flow of energy in this one.
Large Two Forms
‘Large Two Forms’ brings a titanic feeling to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, based on the sheer size of this sculpture by Henry Moore. The wonderment of this is if you look at it from every angle it appears to show the points and curvatures meeting and just falling short at the same time.
No Borders just horizons only freedom
“No Borders just horizons only freedom” quoted from the pioneering female aviator Amelia Earhart; the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Her quote from the 1930s doesn’t look out of place in today’s politics of polarisation – Hillary Jack has captured the mood of the moment!
‘Wilsis’ is a dreamlike exploration of the flattening of the structure; and in this case the female face. Like the words written on a piece of paper, they are emboldened to the reader front on, but when flipped onto the side lose all form.
‘Longplayer’ is a 1000 year long musical composition by Jem Finer. The sequence of notes won’t be replicated for a millenia and the computer programme producing this can change with technologies known and unknown in the future. A sonic sculpture that’s in flux with human technology.
‘Eddy’ by JocJonJosch, an Anglo-Swiss-Slovakian collective shows the strain and struggle when individuals come together in a collective. The 3 ores represents forward motion in 3 different directions, which effectively puts the boat into a circle spin. You’re going nowhere in the boathouse.
‘Kimsooja’ takes the productive powers – sewing and weaving – traditionally associated with feminin identity. From this starting point Kimsooja seeks to explore the relationship with our body and the world around us, relating to the one common thread we all share – work and the productive forces of society.
Our personal favourite, positioned high up on the hill above the park. ‘Seated Figure’ comes from the mind of Sean Henry. At work here is the idea that all sculpture is inherently theatrical. You sense a great feeling of nostalgia emanating from Seated Figure.
Crate of Air
‘Crate of Air’ is the work of Irish-born artist Sean Scully. Born into a working class South London household; he was regularly called on to weave and sew for his parents and siblings. You can see the influence of that skill in the grid-like framework of this sculpture.
‘Sitting’ is a beguiling presence on the landscape of YSP. This humanoid is Sophie Ryder’s projection of motherhood. She uses a hybrid of a Hare and a body modelled on her own to project this.
‘Network’ by Thomas J Price is pushing the boundaries of identity and race. His work is restoring power to communities that are used to seeing the benefactors of slavery portrayed triumphantly in bronze around the UK; like the statue of Edward Colston that was toppled and thrown into the Bristol Harbour in 2020.
Visit an Exhibition
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park showcases the best sculpture from around the globe in carefully curated exhibitions. Here’s what’s on at the moment…
Alfredo Jaar’s ‘The Garden of Good and Evil’ focuses the lense on forced confinement and torture, and the trauma that follows. Steel structures are partially hidden from view to mimic the coverup of black sites run by the CIA around the world.
Superstar Damien Hirst has brought four of his bronze sculptures to YSP. Charity (2002-2003), Myth (2010), The Hat Makes the Man (2004-2007) and The Virgin Mother (2005-2006). The latter strikingly shows the foetus curled up in the womb. In a similar vein ‘Myth’ peels back the skin of a unicorn. In both instances Hirst is antagonising the original form we associate with religious and mythical figures. Damien’s exhibition is at the YSP until 1 April 2022.
Learning Schools Visits
Over 40,000 children, young people and adults have already benefited from access to the Yorkshire Sculpture Parks arts and culture education programme. Those target groups come from “socio-economically disadvantaged communities” and people with poor mental health. Landscape, ecology, heritage and art are fused to create a cathartic learning experience. To find out more about this opportunity head over to the YSP learning page.
The park is graced with four different types of natural habitat – wood pasture, parkland, lakes and woodland. To best showcase this YSP are working with RSPB and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to facilitate ‘wild weekends’ at the park. Where you will witness and learn about the animals, insects, birds and plants that have made the YSP home. Covering all the natural habitats will take you on a circular walk of the grounds which could be anything between 7-10 miles, like Andrew’s walk. A great spinoff of visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is you get a really good walk (or run) in too.
YSP welcomes dog lovers to the park with a cautionary note that not everyone else feels the same. Considering the following when visiting with your pooch:
- Keep your dog on a shortened lead all the time.
- Clean up your dog’s mess and use the bins provided.
- Dogs are not permitted on the Upper Lake or Menagerie Wood due to grazing livestock.
- Only assistance dogs are permitted in the indoor spaces – cafes, visitor centres and galleries.
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The Domesday “great survey” listed YSP as ‘waste’ around 1,000 years ago. It’s been an upward journey since then. An all star team of designers and gardeners have contributed to the aesthetic of the park over the centuries – John Carr, Jeffry Wyatt (later Sir Jeffry Wyatville), William Atkinson and George Basevi Jnr – raising up glass houses, lodges, mansions and follies.
From rags to riches went the park’s appeal in the 16th century when the likes of Henry 8th was given a visiting room whenever a visit to Bretton took his fancy. By 1720 Sir William Wentworth had built the Palladian mansion, the park’s architectural centrepiece, with gardens and parks adjoining it. Wentworth was a bit of a playboy; entertaining guests with firework displays and chauvinistic war games on the lake.
Diana Beamont indirectly came into ownership of the park in the 19th century as the illegitimate child of William Wentworth. Diana was partial to the glass house type of construction and with that the look of the park changed. The most notable construction from this period is the ‘Far Famed Dome Conservatory’ – a world beater in size at the time.
By the mid-twentieth century the majority of the estate was sold to West Riding Council by Henry Beaumont, the son of Diana. In 1949 Bretton Hall teaching college was founded. It specialised in art, music and drama until its closure in 2007. The pioneering and innovative college excelled in delivering distinguished courses in its field. In 1977 open air sculpture was introduced to the estate and the public were invited in to enjoy this.
And so, out of Bretton Hall, Yorkshire Sculpture Park evolved. A synthesis of the two – education and open air sculpture – remains to this day.
When planning your visit note that accessible toilets for individual use, including wheelchair access, are located in the YSP Learning and Visitor Centre. For key access please ask the staff team in the cafe.
Food and Drink
With so much to see at YSP you’ll easily spend all day there. When considering food and drink your options fall under the self-catered or restaurant experience.
On a warm sunny day the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a great place to have a picnic because you’re surrounded by amazing art.
For those that enjoy snacking and topping up their luncheon the YSP have a well stocked outdoor coffee bar.
If you are looking for a proper meal in beautiful and calming surroundings head to the YSP Weston Restaurant.
Parking is included in the cost of the ticket; priority parking for blue badge holders is reserved in all the YSP official car parks.
The paths at YSP are mixed access with some terrain unsuitable for wheelchair and mobility access. YSP recommends seeking advice from the information point when you arrive to make your visit as smooth as possible. Buggy users will have no issues in the park..
How to Get To Yorkshire Sculpture Park
To get to Yorkshire Sculpture Park by car you need to leave the M1 at Junction 38 following WF4 4JX. It’s a one way journey just shy of 30 minutes from Leeds.
To get to Yorkshire Sculpture Park by train you will need to take the East Coast Mainline from Leeds to Wakefield Westgate and then a taxi the remainder of the way.
Where To Get a Yorkshire Sculpture Park Entry Ticket
A Yorkshire Sculpture Park ticket is available from the Eventbrite page. The cost of a ticket is £6 per person with under 18s free. If you’re a carer or Max card holder you’re entitled to a concession.
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