The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the UKs leading open air gallery and the largest of its kind in Europe. The 500-acre estate displays world class sculptures on every corner.
It’s a walk in the park but better.
You can roam the landscaped gardens, lake and quintessential British countryside, passing grazing sheep, highland cows and all types of birds. But in addition, you’re treated with a treasure hunt for wonderful pieces of art. There is a map but we usually take the modern-day explorer approach, and wing it.
My favourite thing about Yorkshire Sculpture Park is that you don’t have to be the arty farty type to enjoy it. You can simply admire the impressive statues for their aesthetics – there are over 80 in the park! We find they are a great starting point for conversation and if I’m really invested, I might read the panels to understand the meaning. It’s really up to you.
These are my 6 favourite sculptures
1. Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst is a big British name in Contemporary art as he’s always pushing boundaries. He was brought up in Leeds, so it’s great to see his work being displayed near his home.
Myth is a glowing white unicorn with its colourful peeled back. Charity is a spin on the collection boxes from the 1970s, showing a young girl in braces, pleading for money. The Virgin Mother is a jaw dropping sculpture that reveals the internal organs of a pregnant lady.
SHOWING UNTIL APR 2022
2. Rooster (Joana Vasconcelos)
The Rooster of Barcelos is the most common symbol of Portugal, and Portugese artist has turned it into a psychedelic installation.
This rockin’ rooster sits proudly at the top of Yorkshire Sculpture Park and is covered in 17,000 handmade ceramic tiles. It also has 15,000 LED lights, which light up like Blackpool Illuminations at night.
SHOWING UNTIL JAN 2021
3. Zodiac Heads (Ai Weiwei)
I love these 12 bronze Zodiac heads because they immediately got us talking about our own Chinese star sign! The exaggerated animals are cast in bronze, stand three metres high and weigh a mighty 57 stone each.
The artist said he wanted it to be playful and accessible: “I want this to be seen as [a] rather funny piece… people can relate to [the sculpture] because everybody has a zodiac connection”.
SHOWING UNTIL NOV 2020
4. Vulcan (Eduardo Paolozzi)
I was really drawn into the mythic world this colossal 7 metre, bronze sculpture embodied. Vulcan is an unusual assembly of parts to make up this half man/half machine.
It’s inspired the Roman god of fire and metalworking who was thrown from Mount Olympus. The artwork includes a hammer in ode to his metal trade and his legs are at odds to reflect the fall.
5. Buddha (Niki de Saint Phalle)
This giant Buddha glitters from every angle and beckoned us over with its sparkle. The artist used mirror, glass and stone to create this groovy sculpture. My boyfriend was quick to point out the belly looked like a Pokeball.
It has been a resident in the park for a very long time and it’s like seeing an old friend every time I return.
6. Sitting Hare (Sophie Ryder)
This sculpture is quite a striking piece that always raises eyebrows. It’s a hybrid figure with the body of a female and head of a Hare. I admire how she sits and watches over the landscape with such confidence, power and grace.
Looking for more things to do nearby? Make sure you read my top 3 walk in North Yorkshire.
ARCHIVE DISPLAY: KAWS
I was lucky enough to visit when Yorkshire Sculpture Park displayed work by KAWS. With his pop art style, these wooden micky mouse style installations captured the imaginations of all ages. The artist had worked in animation studios and has a trademark of using crossed out eyes, which might help you understand why he conjured up these darker Disney figures.
Thankfully most organisations have found ways to adapt to Covid-19 so we can still get our culture fix. Yorkshire Sculpture Park have introduced 3 key changes that will affect your usual visit.
- You must prebook a ticket PER PERSON at £6 each. This will give you entry to all of the estate and parking.
- Masks are required in all indoor spaces such as toilets, cafe, galleries and shop.
- There are hand sanitiser stations throughout the park, which you are encouraged to use.
It’s more important than ever to support cultural venues to help them survive this awful pandemic. As well as buying a ticket and purchasing items from the cafe and shop, you can also donate.
How to get to Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Yorkshire Sculpture Park is only 7 miles outside of Wakefield and 20 miles south of Leeds. There are 3 main ways to get to the park:
CAR: This is obviously the easiest method of transport. Use postcode WF4 4JX.
TRAIN: The nearest train station is Wakefield Westgate. You will need to get a taxi from there, costing about £10.
BUS: From Monday-Saturday, catch the 96 bus between Wakefield and Barnsley.
We have visited in the summer and autumn, but it’s the kind of place that transforms every season. I’d love to return in the snow! I imagine it would be like walking through a scene in a Christmas card. The sculptures change regularly too, so you will always find something new.
Get curious on your walks thanks to the wonders of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Find out more and book your tickets here.
Open daily from 10am-6pm, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.