If you have paid a visit to Wakefield in Yorkshire recently, you might have spotted some additions. Wakefield Council, in collaboration with The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, is unveiling a series of new monumental site-specific sculptures by artists such as Annie Morris, Halima Cassell and Jason Wilsher-Mills. Public art is not new – statues have adorned streets since ancient times – but the current emphasis dates from the period after the Second World War when, on a mission to beautify the Essex new town of Harlow, the founders of Harlow Art Trust declared that high-quality art should be part of the social fabric of everyday life. Some of the greatest 20th-century artists – Henry Moore, Elisabeth Frink, Barbara Hepworth, Leon Underwood– conceived pieces for Harlow’s parks, shopping centres and office plazas, and new works are still being added (sculpturetown.uk).
In Wakefield, the six contemporary commissions can be seen throughout the city, including at Westgate train station, outside the library and in The Hepworth Wakefield’s garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith (featured in the November 2022 issue of House & Garden). And in London, Nick Hornby has this year created three new public commissions, one for St James’s and two for Kensington. ‘Our environment affects every-thing, from our mood to our morals,’ he says.
Pictured; Not in Anger, 1979, Leon Underwood.