YSP is delighted to announce further details of a series of monumental new sculptures for Wakefield city centre, developed in partnership with Wakefield City Council and The Hepworth Wakefield. Unveiled throughout July, August and September 2023, the sculptures by Halima Cassell, Andy Holden, Annie Morris, Ro Robertson and Jason Wilsher-Mills will include new, site-specific works and will be displayed at key points across the city, providing an opportunity to experience and engage with world-class contemporary art in the UK’s home of sculpture.
The historic cathedral city of Wakefield is a remarkable cultural destination for the celebration of historic and contemporary sculpture. Wakefield District 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 place outside of London to have two Art Fund Museums of the Year. Wakefield 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 opposite The Hepworth Wakefield that have been transformed into a major events space, music studios, offices for creative businesses and new restaurants and bars, transforming Wakefield’s waterfront into an exciting new hub for the creative industries.
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 curate outdoor contemporary sculptures that animate the city centre. Wakefield Council drew upon Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s expertise in outdoor sculpture, commissioning the organisation to support the process to select the five artists.
The new sculptures launching this summer will amplify the city’s extraordinary cultural heritage and resonate with both residents and visitors. Each artist has been selected for projects that create a relationship and dialogue with the city centre. Launching throughout July and August, the sculptures will collectively form a free, outdoor public art trail creating a unique city centre sculpture experience.
Andy Holden, Auguries: Last Calls
Wakefield One, launches late July 2023
The first permanent public sculpture by Andy Holden (b. 1982, Bedford, UK) will take the form of a series of bronze structures that represent the songs of native birds with rapidly declining populations, including the Mistle Thrush, Skylark and Swift. Recordings of these bird songs have been translated into 3D wave forms and then cast in metal, acting as totems to remind the public of mankind’s ever-changing relationship with nature. People will also be able to listen to the individual bird songs via a QR code. The sculpture will be in close proximity to the Wakefield Museum, which currently houses the collection and archive of Charles Waterton, who was born in Wakefield and went on to invent the bird nesting box and also created the world’s first recognised nature reserve in Wakefield in the 1820s.
Annie Morris, Bronze Stack 9 Viridian Green
West Yorkshire History Centre, launches late July 2023
Taken from the artist’s distinctive ‘Stack’ series, the 11.5-foot bronze sculpture by Annie Morris (b. 1978, London, UK) will comprise a tall column of precariously arranged irregular spheres. The colour palette, including vivid blues, deep reds and vibrant greens, will reflect both the busy outdoor environment of the city but also the stunning natural landscape that surrounds Yorkshire, a great source of inspiration to Morris whilst preparing for her first institutional solo show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2021. The sculpture will be outside the West Yorkshire History Centre, a purpose-built archive that holds the history of the West Riding of Yorkshire from 1194, including records of births, marriages and deaths. These symbolic themes are echoed in Morris’s practice, which touches on vulnerability and strength, grief and renewal, hope, uncertainty, rebirth and creativity.
Jason Wilsher-Mills, Amazonian Caiman God
Wakefield Cathedral Precinct, launches late July 2023
Jason Wilsher-Mills (b. 1969, Wakefield, UK) will present a new 6.5-foot bronze sculpture that in part explores his own personal connection to nearby Walton Hall, the former home of Charles Waterton, at which his parents met while his mother was working there as an auxiliary nurse. Wilsher-Mills’ sculpture will depict an Amazonian Caiman god holding a small ferry boat containing figures of his parents. The figure will be wearing leg callipers as a proud depiction of disability and a nod to the artist’s own experience of debilitating chicken pox in childhood that left him partially paralysed. Visitors will be able to engage further with the sculpture through augmented reality technology and QR codes, which will allow them to hear a new poem by poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan, created in response to the sculpture’s themes, as well as access an online animated film.
Halima Cassell, Gathering
Wakefield Westgate Station, launches late July 2023
The hand-carved concrete sculpture Gathering by Halima Cassell (b. 1975, Kashmir, Pakistan) will comprise five sculptural columns, each representing a figure. The work reflects the artist’s interest in the sculptor Barbara Hepworth and calls to mind Hepworth’s ‘The Family of Man’ sculptures whilst also combining Cassell’s distinctive geometric and architectural elements. Works from the ‘The Family of Man’ series are on permanent display at both The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Cassell spent time studying Hepworth when commissioned by Wakefield Art Gallery in 2008 to create a piece to celebrate the new Hepworth Wakefield being built. The commission, titled Light Strings through Zenith & Nadir, reflected on the architecture styles of the longstanding Wakefield Art Gallery and the new Hepworth Wakefield. A new work by the artist, Fan Construction, is also situated in The Hepworth Wakefield’s award-winning garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. Created in cast iron, the surface of the six-metre-high sculpture has recurring patterns inspired by the geometry and symmetry found in nature. It complements a carved relief in unglazed clay, Fan (2005), acquired by the gallery last year which is on display inside The Hepworth Wakefield.
Ro Robertson, The Source
The Springs, launches early September 2023
Ro Robertson’s (b. 1984, Sunderland, UK) The Source will take the form of a 20-metre long sculptural walkway and garden. Taking visual inspiration from the movement of water, this ambitious new work will highlight local history and environmental factors, and connect with the subject of healing. It has been developed specifically for the site of The Springs, one of the main public transport and pedestrian routes through Wakefield, which was previously the site of freshwater springs. Until 1837, the sole sources of water in the city were springs, wells and streams, and the site would have been used as a daily watering hole and place of healing. Robertson has worked in collaboration with Katy Merrington (Cultural Gardener, The Hepworth Wakefield) to develop a planting plan selection that focusses on movement, structure, and sensory elements with the aim of providing a space where people can feel encompassed by nature.
The Hepworth Wakefield, in partnership with Wakefield Council, will lead on an extensive engagement programme around the launch of the public sculptures. Working closely with Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield Council, local communities, colleges and business owners, the programme will celebrate the arrival of each of the sculptures with free and publicly accessible events. These will include hands-on workshops aimed at connecting people with materials and making and exploring what it means to create sculpture today. Sessions will unfold at venues across the city centre, The Hepworth Wakefield and the West Yorkshire History Centre.