Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, Wakefield, WF4 4LG – Visit Now
Home to works by Hepworth, Moore and the Turner Prize-nominated Roger Hiorns, the 500 acre park is an idyllic day out – just try to keep your kids under control.
In 2008, Roger Hiorns filled a condemned London flat with liquid copper sulphate and allowed it to crystallise on the walls. In 2009, it was nominated for the Turner Prize and in 2011, it was acquired by the Arts Council Collection and moved – all 31 tonnes of it – to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
I just love installation art, don’t you? Glass cubes filled with smoke, rickety rollercoaster tracks and crocheted playgrounds; they make stuffy art galleries so much more fun. Why hang a painting on the wall when you can shoot red wax out of a cannon at it instead? Imagine how many more punters you’d attract by filling a room with balloons, or in the case of Roger Hiorns’ “Seizure,” coating the walls in twinkly blue stuff. Too long art has been bogarted by snooty ponces and bohemian hipsters, it’s high time art was made for the proletariat. And especially their children.
Children of the information age just get art, y’know? When one of today’s kids strums the delicate strings of a Hepworth with a snotty finger, he’s not simply proclaiming himself Intolerable Hellspawn Of Irresponsible Parents; no, he’s taking a stand against modernism. The adorable tyke treating one of Henry Moore’s Reclining Figures like a climbing frame is merely disclosing an innate disgust at mass production practices being applied to works of art. As he runs headlong through the rooms of a gallery wailing “Emily is a poo poo head!” you can tell he’s pondering the art world’s Really Big Questions. Why is the “Mona Lisa” so revered? What was so controversial about Mondrian’s grid paintings? Can a Campbell’s soup can really be considered art?
When I arrived at the YSP to see two kids cry-fighting over an iPad as their incognito parents allowed them to “enjoy the art” on their own, I thought, “Yes, galleries need more of this!” Installations like “Seizure” are just the things to get kids interested in art. It’s sparkly, it’s Smurf-coloured and the crystals look like sweets! I could not have been more wrong.
Many installations encourage the viewer to interact with art, “Seizure” was created to keep people out
The press photos of “Seizure” focus closely on the bright blue crystals, which fool you into thinking it might be something Indiana Jones would find buried under Disneyland. But it’s nothing like that. The crystals do indeed draw you in, Hansel and Gretel style, but it isn’t long before the claustrophobia takes over. The crystals make the puny space even punier. With its simple lighting, uneven floor and exposed mesh, you feel an increasing sense of dread as you move through it and a distinct need to get out quickly before you’re sealed in. Like Hiorns’s crystallised engines, there is no attempt to gussy up the rough edges, which makes it less Liberace’s bomb shelter and more casualty of a world ending chemical attack. While many installations these days encourage the viewer to interact with the art, “Seizure” feels like it was created to keep people out. It is not a friendly piece at all, in fact, you have to try quite hard not to impale yourself on the pointy crystals. I wouldn’t have thought you could make a lonely council flat even lonelier by crystallising it, but somehow that’s exactly what Hiorns has done. I don’t know what won the Turner prize the year “Seizure” was nominated, but it must have been flippin’ good.
And Hiorns’ piece is just the tip of the iceberg. Unlike a traditional gallery- where children clearly do not belong – the park covers a full 500 acres and provides loads of ducks and sheep for the little angels to terrorise while the adults enjoy the sculptures. You still get the odd AwesomeDad™ lifting his stamping kid onto Sol LeWitt’s “123454321” and encouraging her to use it as an Olympic podium despite signs instructing them to do precisely the opposite, but because the YSP is big and roofless, the rest of us don’t feel like we’re being held hostage by the shouty brat.
There are sculptures for all tastes, from the ultra-minimal “Work No. 700” by Martin Creed, to Magdalena Abakanowicz’s headless and quite serious “10 Seated Figures,” to Sophie Ryder’s playful (and massive!) hares to, of course, works by Yorkshire’s big two: Hepworth and Moore. The grounds are vast and pristine, the opportunities to buy food are plenty and well placed – and it’s free. If you’re lucky enough to get the sun, it really takes some beating as a day out. Even for kids. Just keep them from climbing on the bloody things; it’s really not that difficult.
Admission ChargesFree, but parking charges apply
Services and Facilitiesparkland, galleries, shop, cafes, group tours, lectures
AccessibilityIndoor galleries and services are fully accessible by wheelchair users. The parkland varies but visitors can reserve a motorised scooter 01924 832631
Commercial and hire servicesAvailable for hire