Dream at Suttton Manor

I have just returned from a week’s holiday in Yorkshire and took advantage to visit both the new Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield and the nearby Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The Hepworth Gallery, designed by architect David Chipperfield, is magnificent both externally and internally. Rising out of the River Calder, it houses a superb collection of works by Wakefield-born Barbara Hepworth and her close circle of friends, including Sir Henry Moore.
The place was packed – probably, like me, people from outside the area who would never have visited Wakefield but for the gallery. Like the Guggenheim in Bilbao, it offers further proof (if proof is needed), that people will travel many miles in the cause of good art and architecture. A gallery alone will not regenerate Wakefield, but it certainly will have a major impact on how the town is viewed in future.
Seven miles along the road and another stunning experience – the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Set in 500 acres of rolling countryside, the Park houses superb works by Henry Moore, Hepworth, Elizabeth Frink and many others of international renown. Many are dramatically sited in the landscape in a far more dynamic relationship than they would have in an art gallery.
I had specifically visited the Sculpture Park to see a comprehensive exhibition of the work of Jaume Plensa, the Barcelona-born sculptor. However, to get a taste of his stunning work, you only need to travel the short distance to Sutton Manor, close to the M62. His head of a young girl dreaming is set amongst trees on the top of what was once a slag heap. The 20 metre head, covered with white Spanish dolomite, is in symbolic contrast to the coal once dug out from below.
One of the best things about all three places is that they are free to enter (except for car parking charges at Wakefield and the Sculpture Park). This really got me thinking about how much Liverpool has to offer that is without an entry charge: Another Place at Crosby, the two Cathedrals (York Minster charges ?9 per head), the Tate, the Walker, Lady Lever, Museum – the list goes on. With so many negatives about the current economic situation, here is one great positive. All these places can change the way you see life – and at no financial cost. I can think of no other European country that is so generous with free access to its great institutions, its museums, galleries and cathedrals, as is Britain. I hope it will always remain so.

How art transforms a city

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