Exploring Yorkshire Sculpture International


As the region gears up for a rich new festival of sculpture this summer, the University has unveiled a series of events to explore the art form’s place in the world.

Yorkshire Sculpture International (YSI), a 100-day free celebration from Saturday 22 June to Sunday 29 September, is the UK’s largest festival dedicated to sculpture.

A series of exhibitions, international commissions, events and learning programmes will celebrate sculpture in its broadest forms on display across four galleries – Henry Moore Institute, The Hepworth Wakefield, Leeds Art Gallery and Yorkshire Sculpture Park – and across outdoor public spaces in Leeds and Wakefield.

YSI is backed by the University, which is working with the initiative to support talent development and student engagement through a programme of public events and professional skills development activities.

Professor Frank Finlay, Executive Dean of the University’s Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures, also heads up its Cultural Institute, which has developed the partnership with YSI.

He said: “Yorkshire Sculpture International is a fantastic and ambitious opportunity to build on our strong tradition of partnership with all four of the great Yorkshire arts institutions involved, creating exciting opportunities for our students and enabling the University to engage with the wider public.”

Sculpture in the Round

A series of six conversation events inspired by Yorkshire Sculpture International will explore the nature of sculpture in the public realm from various perspectives, posing questions such as Who is it for? What is its role in society? Who makes it? Where and how is it located?

The series of curated Sculpture in the Round Conversations is free and open to all, and has been coordinated by the Cultural Institute.

  • A Conversation about Sculpture and Place with Huma Bhabha
    Saturday 22 June, 2-4pm
    The Hepworth Wakefield
    On the opening day of YSI, world-renowned artist Huma Bhabha will discuss her work, influences and major new commission for the centre of Wakefield, with Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Director of Programme, Clare Lilley.
    Working almost entirely in figurative sculpture, Bhabha’s approach is unconventional and cross-cultural, making connections between histories, languages and civilisations.
    This conversation will provide a starting point for a wider discussion about sculpture and place, chaired by University of Leeds Associate Professor Dr Joanne Crawford. Panellists from a wide range of backgrounds will consider key questions around the art form.


Huma Bhabha, We Come in Peace (2017). Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York

Huma Bhabha, We Come in Peace (2017). Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York 

  • Is sculpture the most anthropological of the art forms?
    Thursday 4 July, 6-8pm
    Leeds Art Gallery

Join Yorkshire Sculpture International’s Producer Jane Bhoyroo as she chairs an exciting round table discussion exploring the festival’s provocation ‘sculpture is the most anthropological of the art forms’. This stimulating debate will question this statement from different angles, view-points and fields of study.

Panellist Laurence Sillars, Head of the Henry Moore Institute, will let the audience in on behind-the-scenes curatorial discussions from the festival. And experts from diverse fields such as YSI artist Tau Lewis and University of Leeds academics Will Rea (Senior Lecturer in Art) and Dr Adam Strickson (Teaching Fellow in Theatre and Writing) will bring a new perspective to the conversation. 

  • Working in Sculpture: Gender, Diversity and Creativity
    Thursday 11 July, 6–8pm
    stage@leeds, University of Leeds

University of Leeds art historian Professor Griselda Pollock will chair a roundtable discussion exploring the experiences of women working in sculpture, bringing together artists with those involved with collecting, commissioning and the art market.

This event will consider gender, making sculpture, feminism and wider challenges related to cultural identity. Focus will be given to the Arts Council Collection’s new touring exhibition of sculpture by women (due to launch in 2020), public realm sculpture by women at the University of Leeds and new commissions for YSI.

Speakers include Eleanor Clayton, Curator at The Hepworth Wakefield, and Natalie Rudd, Senior Curator at the Arts Council Collection. They will be joined by invited artists to enable the fullest exploration of sculpture making today.

  • Science of Making Sculpture: Material
    Thursday 12 September, 6-8pm 
    School of Chemical Engineering, University of Leeds
    This exploratory and lively session will bring to light the hidden aspects of making large-scale, innovative sculpture. Drawing on engineering and materials science, in collaboration with the School of Engineering at University, it will explore the science and engineering that makes sculpture happen, providing a chance to unpick what it takes to make sculpture with artists, technicians and material scientists.


  • Sculptural Encounters in Leeds
    Saturday 14 September, 1.30-3.30pm
    Leeds City Centre walking tour
    Discover the sculptural heartbeat of Leeds, from the energetic Legs Walking by Kenneth Armitage to the relaxed The Dreamer by Quentin Bell.
    This extended walking tour will reveal the hidden histories of Leeds, beginning with the once-forgotten Central Court at Leeds Art Gallery, brought to life by artist Ayse Erkmen for her new commission, to Joseph Beuys’ 7000 Oaks tree, which is often overlooked in the city centre.
    The tour will encompass a wide range of sculpture located at the University of Leeds campus, including recently installed works, before ending at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery.
    This event is part of Heritage Open Days, England’s largest festival of history and culture. Meet at Legs Walking, outside Mill Hill Chapel, City Square, Leeds.

Quentin Bell, ‘The Dreamer’, 1982

Quentin Bell, ‘The Dreamer’, 1982

  • Virtuality in Art
    Wednesday 18 September, 6-8pm
    University of Leeds

    This event will reveal how artists are exploring virtual reality in their work, from works augmenting sculptural form with mapped projection to the exciting and limitless avenues that the virtual space opens to artists as a platform for expression.
    Join the University’s leading researchers in virtual and augmented reality and other artists and curators working in this area to explore what this could mean for artists both in the present and the future.

A wealth of student opportunities

In addition to the Sculpture in the Round Conversations programme, other activities in the run-up to Yorkshire Sculpture International have provided a wide range of more than 200 opportunities for students at Leeds.

Curators from the Yorkshire Sculpture International programme have delivered guest lectures in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, including a two-day insight into curating.

Seven students from the School’s MA programmes in Art Gallery & Museum Studies and Arts Management & Heritage Studies are currently undertaking placements with Yorkshire Sculpture International as part of their module Placements in Context: Policy, Organisations and Practice.

They are working in curatorial, engagement, evaluation and marketing areas with the YSI team and also across the different institutions participating in YSI. Their placements will continue until early May.

Students on the University of Leeds' Public Art Trail admire William Chattaway’s ‘Hermes/The Spirit of Enterprise’Students on the University's Public Art Trail admire William Chattaway’s ‘Hermes/The Spirit of Enterprise’

Two more students will undertake three-month paid internships over the summer to help deliver events, work with volunteers and evaluate the YSI programme. The roles are flexible to allow the students to explore their own interests, liaising directly with artists and curators.

Bethan Hughes, a practice-based PhD student at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, is one of YSI’s 11 engagement artists working on schools and communities projects. Bethan is working with John Jamieson School to focus on the tactility and materiality of sculpture, working with disabled children from across Leeds to explore the sensory elements of installation art.

The partnership has also offered specialist training for student ambassadors to assist with cultural events, improving skills and opportunities.

New sculpture on campus

Over the summer, the University will welcome a new public artwork to campus – the specially-commissioned Converse Column by internationally-renowned British-American artist Liliane Lijn, installed outside its new innovation hub, Nexus.

A view of Nexus with the Parkinson Tower in the background

Lijn works with kinetic text and is a pioneer in the interaction of art, science, technology and language. The work that she has created for the University is designed to represent communication and to support Nexus in inspiring collaboration and innovation with real world impact. It is a nine metre-high revolving column of transforming words. Staff and students have contributed ideas for the text.

  • Yorkshire Sculpture International builds on the growing profile of Yorkshire as a cultural destination and on the shared cultural ambition behind the Leeds 2023 bid for the European Capital of Culture title.
  • The University’s Cultural Institute supports a number of cultural events including the Leeds International Piano Competition and Ilkley Literature Festival, connecting researchers and students at Leeds with world-class artists and thinkers.
  • The main campus is home to an impressive range of public artwork, with a public art trail guiding visitors, staff and students around the collection. It includes sculptures such as the reinstated Hubert Dalwood relief, Simon Fujiwara’s A Spire, and Dual Form by the British sculptor, Barbara Hepworth, on loan from Leeds Art Gallery.