Empty Plinths and Changing Landscapes – Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Yinka Shonibare, Wind Sculpture, 2013. Installed at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Yinka Shonibare, Wind Sculpture, 2013. Installed at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The sculpture park is a particular type of place, a particular type of arts institution. A phenomena unique to the medium of sculpture, save perhaps for a select sort of architecture, the sculpture park is traditionally set within a bucolic, natural landscape or, on a smaller scale, framed as landscape, open air museum annex. It provides a unique if unavoidably artificial manner in which to view sculpture – out of doors, subject to the elements, and transformed (or dwarfed depending on the scale of the work) by the expanse of its surroundings. This tension–between seeing sculpture situated in such a setting and knowing it is a foreign object within that environment–is one of the things I find more intriguing about this type of venue. The awareness of institutional context never really goes away, but if done really well the sculpture park can produce transformative moments when a piece of sculpture looks like  it was always meant to be there, its form so radically altered by its situation; or in reverse, the landscape takes on a completely different character when seen through or around an object.

St Bartholomew’s Chapel, 1744. Photo courtesy of visitleeds.co.uk
St Bartholomew’s Chapel, 1744. Photo courtesy of visitleeds.co.uk

A perfect example of the sculpture park done right can be experienced at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Located near Wakefield, about 2o miles south of Leeds in the north of England, YSP occupies the 500 acres of the Breton Hall Estate, which was built in 1720. Continue reading “Empty Plinths and Changing Landscapes – Yorkshire Sculpture Park”