Chris Wadsworth
Percy Kelly - Looking East to the Ennerdale Fells
Writer and Art Consultant

15th May 2013


25 TREES- David Hockney

Last week I and an intrepid group of friends made a daring foray into the Yorkshire triangle, (no not the famous Rhubarb Triangle - that's horti-culture) to celebrate a BIG birthday. This was The Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle. One side of it is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the second The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and the third is the Hepworth in Wakefield. Each of these venues is exemplary in its own way.

The vast open spaces of the Sculpture Park offer surprise on surprise. Turn a corner and find a Frink or a Gormley. Walk round a tree and see a Henry Moore. Discover an underground gallery with a grass roof mowed by a silent robot mower. 'I'd like one of those' said the birthday boy. 'What a shame you've already got your presents,' I quickly replied with a thin smile.

Sculptor Barbara Hepworth was born and brought up in Wakefield which has acknowledged her importance by building a gallery in her name. The brutal modern architecture of the Hepworth has transformed this formerly neglected industrial part of Wakefield. It appears to float on an island in the river. This place is a joy. It has friendly informative staff, vistas from every window which are framed artworks in themselves and plenty of places to sit and enjoy them. Twenty years ago I wandered into the City Art Gallery while waiting for a train and was astonished to see a superb collection of Modern British artists in their permanent collection. They had been astutely purchased by the Director at the time, a woman called Helen Capp who went on to become the first Director of Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal. With the building of The Hepworth, the City Art Gallery has closed and that great collection, now worth millions, has moved over there. Some of these paintings were on show - Bacon, Bomberg, Auerbach, Nicholson, Clough.

The first casting of Hepworth's commission from John Lewis in Oxford Street decades ago dominates the main gallery. When in London I always glance up at to see its twin which looks small, high above the oblivious crowds shopping below. Now I understand the scale of it. The new gallery was specially designed to house it.

The Henry Moore Institute in the centre of Leeds completes the triangle. It is a haven of peace among the endless shopping malls around it.

Salts Mill in Bradford was an added bonus. The brainchild of the mercurial entrepreneur Jonathan Silver who tragically died of cancer aged 47, it is a vast space on many floors, It houses the largest collection of Hockneys in the UK - possibly the world. After the frenzy of his blockbuster exhibition at the Royal Academy last year it was marvellous to sit alone and quietly study the huge painting 25 Trees which filled a whole wall, in peace and to stroll round the exhibition of his lithographs, paintings, faxes. Each floor - even Salt's Diner on the 2nd floor is full of Hockneys. The menu and serviettes carry his signature - the drawing of his little dog. (the food is excellent too, the ambience unique)'

These four palaces of art and culture are examples of regeneration on a large scale. They are busy, spacious and ALL ARE FREE. We only paid for parking. I guess I''m preaching to the converted but if not - it's worth doing.

We had gathered for a big birthday but parted determined to make a culture vulture tour an annual event; Liverpool, Glasgow, Walsall, St Ives, Tyneside ..... the list is long. There is plenty to see outside our capital that is open to all without queues and hassle.

Civilisation is defined by its culture (though Yorkshire people might say by its rhubarb!).




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