Leeds sculpture collections

The latest major exhibition in Leeds opened last week. The Sculpture Collections (2018) showcases the best of Leeds’ significant collections, exhibited in both Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute.

Ahead of the opening was a talk and tour in the Henry Moore Institute. I particularly enjoyed the work in Galleries 1 and 2, which provided a survey of British sculpture in the period 1945 – 1965. I find this an interesting period for art in Britain, the tension between the post-war optimism and hope for the future, contrasted with the horror and the aftermath of what had gone before, is evident in much of the art. Featureless or blank-looking faces nonetheless can suggest a range of emotions. In their simple forms they represent humanity.

In this period of political upheaval many artists from across Europe came to Britain, and the collection has many works from Eastern European artists whose style influenced British sculpture. Political and social themes were strong at the time. Many of the artists were members of The Artists International Association, which was established in 1933 to promote and support left-wing causes.

The echoes in today’s social and political contexts were clear: socially engaged and activist practice, treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, conflicts and war, the establishment of the Artists Union England.

Gallery 2 showed more work from the post-war period, both abstract and figurative, some of it quite light-hearted in appearance and subject. It was great to see women sculptors well-represented in the exhibition.


  • Featured image: Reg Butler (1955) Model for the Unknown Political Prisoner.
  • Betty Rea (1956-7) Girls in the Wind.
  • William Turnbull (1949) Playground.


The Sculpture Collections (2018) [Exhibition] Leeds Art Gallery and Henry Moore Institute, 22 March – 2 September.


loiner or


I enjoyed re-visiting the archive-based Pavilion exhibition, Interwoven Histories (2017) at Armley Mills Industrial Museum. The exhibition has now been extended with a delicate and intriguing sound sculpture, loiner or, by Ryoko Akama.

img_5966It uses objects from the museum, but also sounds. Voices recorded at local community groups over the course of the project, plus tantalising snippets from a 1966 study of local dialects float out of parts of the fragile and sprawling sculpture which is in three parts throughout the room. It’s a beautiful and complex work, both contemporary and antiquated, due to the materials used: tailoring scissors, shuttles, transmitters, fold-out portable coat-hangers, a large cardboard box.

The sound is so gentle, you can barely hear it at times. It floats on the imagination, barely tethered by the fine electronic wires above our heads.

Another lovely example of the effectiveness and connectivity of sound art.



Akama, R. (2018) loiner or [Installation] Armley Mills Industrial Museum, Leeds (Viewed: 9 February 2018).

Interwoven Histories (2017) [Exhibition] Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, Leeds. 10 October 2017 – 1 April 2018.