On a blazing hot Bank Holiday Monday this August, I took Mylo up to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to explore with the friend who accompanied me the first time I went nearly 8 years ago. The weather was terrible then. I remember drinking tea huddled into each other coats in an effort to remain defrosted. Luckily this time was considerably warmer, so I got to spend more time appreciating the sculpture and less time dodging the pouring rain.
The YSP is one huge art space set out over acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and natural English countryside. Originally a stately home, and then a college of art amongst other incarnations, the YSP are currently undertaking a sensitive and gentle restoration of the grounds and architecture. The sculpture and newer structures blend beautifully with what remains from the past. The overall affect, with the sculpture, landscape and buildings is one of balance; with old and new coexisting alongside. It is a shame that this cannot be achieved as successfully in many other places.
Highlights of the day included seeing how Mylo, who is four, interacted with the environment in a completely different way to adults. We pulled faces, discussed reflections, climbed, crawled and touched. The wildlife was beautiful and the cows weren’t bad either. The walk around the main lake includes a farm animals section which include some particularly impressive Highland Bulls.
The range of pieces of permanent display is impressive. Classic Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore synchronise with challenging modern examples. Some of the latter resemble abandoned plastic bags and a smashed up garden pathway. The sheer scale of the site and the sculpture within it make it art on an unprecedented scale. A great experience for children, and a lesson in size, stature and lots of walking.
The temporary exhibitions were located inside and outside the space. Outside, monolithic cartoon characters waved and smiled, whilst towering over you like extras from some sick fantasy in the mind of a War-of-the-Worlds alien. Inside, we discovered a craft and print exhibition. The curation and space they were in seemed ill-considered by comparison. Located upstairs along what I can only describe as a corridor in certain places, we were squeezed in alongside other visitors and forced to crane our necks in an effect to see the pieces, as there was no space to step back and admire them from the distance they deserved. Perhaps because the rest of the site is so well put together the prints seemed a little pale by comparison; even then the subject matter, craft and retro styled images seemed ill-at-odds with the sculpture and modern space.
For families the day is second to none, as long as you have the weather. There is a very pricey cafe available but my advice would be not to bother and pack a picnic, making use of the glorious rolling lawns to enjoy your food. We ventured in for a coffee at the end of the day, and I was not terribly impressed. We had to wait 10 minutes to find a table and even then it was covered in dirty plates. The staff member making the coffee had to redo my order 3 times as it was wrong and was them unable to find our table to deliver it to us.