Visit the Henry Moore Institute in the Heart of Leeds 2016
It’s impossible to think of art in Leeds without conjuring up images of Henry Moore’s abstract bronze figures. The Yorkshire-born sculptor and artist was instrumental in widening the Modernism movement in Britain during the 20th century. Famed in particular for his large, curvaceous sculptures of the human form, he was a man determined to leave a valuable legacy to the support and promotion of the arts. He got his wish and in the heart of Leeds, just a stone’s throw from the impressive Leeds Town Hall and Art Gallery, is the Henry Moore Institute.
The Institute was set up by Moore himself in 1977 to encourage an appreciation of the visual arts in his home county and nearly 40 years later, the organisation is thriving. The gallery is visited annually by thousands of people eager to commemorate Moore’s contribution to the British artistic stage and to learn more about how the foundation helps the next generation of artists through scholarships, conferences, lectures and research facilities. Always home to inspiring exhibitions and a stunning permanent collection, if you’re planning a trip to 42 The Calls Leeds, your visit won’t be complete without going to this breath-taking cultural treasure just a 10 minute walk from the hotel.
The Institute building is instantly eye-catching, a monument itself to Henry Moore’s love of natural materials and ingenious sculpture. Contrasting with the surrounding grey stone buildings of the Victorian era, the frontage is made of a thick sheet of polished black-green granite. The institute use this gleaming slab to display striking signage about the latest exhibitions and project images of upcoming events. The top section mimics the older architecture of Britain, shaped like a medieval castle’s battlements – an honest nod perhaps to the out-of-place nature of this section of wall amongst a sea of more historic buildings and a parallel to the forward-thinking approach Moore had to sculpture.
Once you enter the institute, you are met with a series of white-washed rooms – this simplicity allows the focus to be drawn to the creations themselves and not the grandeur of the building. You’ll notice the artworks are often spread out with only one or two pieces per room – this is a deliberate move by the museum to allow sculptures to be viewed in un-cluttered spaces mimicking the outdoors. Many of Moore’s sculptures are situated in natural spaces around the world – the rolling hills of Yorkshire where he grew up strongly influenced his work. You can even see his artwork at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park just outside Leeds on the way to Barnsley, a 20 minute drive from 42 The Calls. Viewing the sculptures in the wide, airy spaces of the institute helps create the illusion of the outdoors being brought indoors.
Aside from some of Moore’s most famous pieces, over the years the institute has hosted an array of dazzling exhibitions dedicated to the many forms of sculpture. From the industry vs nature creations of Carol Bove and Carlo Scarla, exploring the environment in which we view sculptures, to a display of the icons used in the journey Britain went on from Roman to English identity during the Dark Ages. From Ice Age paintings to structures made of chewing gum, from portraits of Victorian womanhood to art in the Third Reich, this museum houses diverse and fascinating works from almost every period of Earth’s history. Whenever you visit, you’re guaranteed to find something interesting so check the exhibition list beforehand and see what’s coming up.
Moore himself said the purpose of The Henry Moore Foundation is multifaceted – ‘One (reason) is to help the appreciation of sculpture generally because I remember that as a young sculptor, there was nothing; there wasn't a single piece of sculpture in my home town... Leeds Art Gallery had nothing of any value. Another purpose is to look after my own work after I'm gone: probably exhibit it and also keep some of my things in suitable places in nature. He ended his life a wealthy man, thanks to the large scale pieces he commissioned in his later years, though most of his fortune has been directed to the Henry Moore Foundation, thanks to his determination to sustain the rich, artistic heritage in Yorkshire is so proud of. By visiting the institute, you will extend your appreciation of the arts and help the foundation continue its good work for years to come.