Once lockdown restrictions began to loosen up over the summer in the UK, I started to make plans to meet up with friends. Living in the North West, we still had limitations on who we could see and where we could go, so after a bit of research, a friend and I decided the massive outdoor grounds that house the Sculpture Park would be ideal.
Situated close to Wakefield, the open air gallery is situated within the 500-acre, 18th-century Bretton Hall estate, currently showcasing sculptures from artists even I had heard of, such as Damien Hirst and Ai WeiWei. In particular I wanted to see Damien’s ‘Virgin Mother’ statue and a gigantic Portugese cockeral by Joana Vassconcelos, which greets you as you arrive at the park.
Covid has meant the park is run a little differently than before, you can only buy your ticket online, and a lot of the indoor spaces are closed, but with over 80 outdoor sculptures and installations to see, you can easily spend your day visiting just those. But, there are still indoor toilets and a gift shop that you can visit (masks mandatory) and they have converted their cafe to an outdoor take away space.
Tonnes of Covid friendly measures are in place, with one way arrows, hand sanitiser on gates dotted all over the place and the one indoor exhibition space, limits the number of visitors inside at a time.
We had a glorious day, I think my friend and I were just excited to be able to socialise again after lockdown, but there was some truely amazing, unique sculptures that really made you stop and think. My favourites were indeed the Virgin Mother, but I also really liked the Buddha by Saint Phalle, the Rabbit Madonna by Usagi Kannon II and Network by Thomas J Price.
We were super lucky with the weather too, and although it rained later in our visit, we were still able to enjoy a sunny picnic with some sheep in a field, overlooking the lake and it was almost like the virus had just been a bad dream.
I hadn’t paid too much to the indoor exhibit on offer, as I initially presumed it would be closed, but I’m glad we ventured over, as it was truely inspiring. It was curated by the Portugese Artist Joana Vassconcelos, who designed the giant cockeral at the entrance, but other works on display indoors, included the iconic oversized silver stilettos of Marilyn, made out of saucepans, which represented the division between women’s traditional domestic and contemporary public roles and I also loved the ‘Red Independant Heart #3’ made entirely of red plastic cutlery.
As far as my first post lockdown adventure went, it was a total success!