Yorkshire Sculpture Park
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This vast park boasts a top art collection. Most pieces are outside, so come on a dry day if you want to see works by the likes of Ai Weiwei and Antony Gormley.
Okay, so Yorkshire Sculpture Park is in Wakefield, not Leeds, but it would be difficult to compile a convincing list of the region’s best art spots without including this beautiful and inspiring collaboration between manmade objects and nature. A 15-minute drive from the city, the YSP lies just off the M1 in a rolling, 500-acre estate overlooked by the Grade II-listed, 18th-century Bretton Hall.
The open-air gallery is free to enter but parking costs £8 for a full day’s visit, the proceeds of which contribute to substantial running costs. This still represents impressive value, with a good three hours needed to fully appreciate every area and exhibition in detail. Eighty per cent of the exhibits are to be discovered outside on a scenic amble through country fields, but there is the indoor Longside Gallery that has housed work by the likes of Yinka Shonibare, Joan Miró, Williams Turnbull, Fiona Banner, Ai Weiwei and Antony Gormley.
Sophie Ryder’s giant humanoid rabbits in various poses are some of the most arresting and thought-provoking pieces outdoors, alongside other striking works of wrought iron, stone or wood by artists such as Roger Hiorns, Sol LeWitt, Dennis Oppenheim, Martin Creed, Anthony Caro and Magdalena Abakanowicz.
From Bretton’s neatly manicured lawns, the tour takes in sheep, shaggy-haired cattle, the lake, woodland and a viewpoint atop the hill that offers breathtaking views of the countryside. Foul weather can hamper attempts to visit every sculpture on the estate, but the lively, modern centre offers a dry and welcoming retreat.
The café isn’t cheap, but serves homemade, locally sourced meals and snacks along with a wide range of herbal tea, coffee, soft drinks, and tasty desserts. A visit would feel incomplete without a visit to the YSP shop, with prints, ceramics, textiles, art books and other quirky items available to purchase fairly reasonably.