In summer 2023, Wakefield Council will unveil a series of monumental public sculptures in Wakefield city centre by five leading British artists, including newly commissioned site-specific works. The selected artists are: Halima Cassell, Andy Holden, Annie Morris, Ro Robertson and Jason Wilsher-Mills. Together the sculptures will form a free, outdoor public art trail creating a unique city centre sculpture experience.
Starting at Wakefield Westgate train station and culminating at The Hepworth Wakefield, the trail will provide an opportunity to experience and engage with world-class contemporary art, in the UK’s capital of sculpture. The historic cathedral city of Wakefield is a remarkable cultural destination for the celebration of historic and contemporary sculpture: it is the birthplace of two of the most significant sculptors of the 20th century – Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth – both of whom drew upon their experience of the Yorkshire landscape throughout their careers. Wakefield is also home to two internationally recognised centres for modern and contemporary art – Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Hepworth Wakefield – enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year; it is also the only city outside of London to have two Art Fund Museums of the Year. The city has many other cultural riches including The Art House, a complex of exhibition spaces with more than 50 accessible artists’ studios, a bi-monthly art walk and Tileyard North – Grade II-listed mill buildings on the city’s waterfront, that are currently being transformed into a creative industries destination, including artist studios.
Organised by Wakefield Council, the city centre public sculptures programme has been made possible thanks to a £1m investment from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), administered by Arts Council England (ACE), specifically to commission outdoor contemporary sculptures that animate the city centre. Wakefield Council drew upon Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s expertise in outdoor sculpture, commissioning the organisation to lead the process to select five artists whose work would amplify the city’s extraordinary cultural heritage and resonate with residents and visitors. Each artist has been selected for projects that create a relationship and dialogue with the city centre.
Further details on the individual sculptures and their locations will be revealed in spring 2023.
Cllr Michael Graham, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “As the birthplace of internationally renowned artists - Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth - and home to the Hepworth Wakefield and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, you already know that the Wakefield district has an amazing heritage of sculpture. I know that this new sculpture trail will give a real sense of pride in our fascinating history and heritage and connect key points of the city together while ensuring that everyone is able to access culture and enjoy it.”
Simon Wallis, Director of The Hepworth Wakefield, said: ‘This is an inspiring initiative to help connect Wakefield residents with the important cultural heritage of their district and enhance the welcome and experience for visitors to the city. Wakefield has long been acclaimed for its forward-thinking approach to collecting and championing contemporary art, which has been in place since the establishment of its important art collection in the 1920s. The Council have now secured investment to continue this mission to support contemporary artists and create a physical manifestation of our intent to be recognised as the home of British sculpture.’
Helen Pheby, Associate Director of Programme, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, said: ‘As someone who grew up in Wakefield I feel incredibly fortunate that I could pursue my dream job working with sculptors – inspired by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore on a school visit to YSP. If it wasn’t for the cultural offer in Wakefield I would have had to leave the city to pursue that dream and it’s an honour to be a part of this project that not only contributes to the cultural life and economy of my home city, but will be other, unique sources of inspiration.'