As you should already be aware, our current partnership with Mazda, entitled Think Differently, is part road trip, part cultural treasure hunt. We’re sprinting around the fair British Isles in both a Mazda6 and a CX-5, getting a feel for the cars themselves as we seek design, art and culture outside of their typical destinations – bypassing the likes of London and Manchester, we’ve seen a breathtaking contemporary art space in a well-preserved Victorian seaside resort, an eccentric Italianate village nestled on the coast of North Wales, and internationally-renowned architecture and iconic public art in the North East.
When imparting the details of our Think Differently trip to our tech guy in the office, I also ran through some of the ideas we’d put together for destinations. “Wakefield… culture? Culture… Wakefield?” was his response to one of the earmarked ports of call. OK, treading carefully for fear of upsetting anyone – Wakefield is perhaps one of the places you’d least expect We Heart content to lie, and we’ll leave it there. However, it is also the place that Barbara Hepworth – one of the leading figures in the establishment of British modern art – was born, and grew up. Such was the impact of Hepworth’s work, her presence in the city (essentially a town but, by quirk of British government, the centre of a district of towns granted city status) has recently been recognised with a contemporary gallery of some repute.
Designed by architect David Chipperfield and opened in 2011, The Hepworth Wakefield is an imposing vision of 21st century brutalism, fusing that style’s concrete aesthetics with the fluctuating modernism of Frank Gehry’s unbalanced icons. It’s a beautiful thing in itself but, as they say, it’s what’s inside that counts and naturally there’s heavy focus on Hepworth’s famous work. Surviving prototypes of the artist’s sculptures sit alongside rarely seen works and a series of drawings and screen prints, there’s plenty of work from her contemporaries too, whilst the cutting-edge of art is not overlooked; an exhibition from recently-featured Liverpool-born punk provocateur Linder the pick of the bunch.
Besides being a major force in its own right – seeing half a million visitors through its doors in the first year – The Hepworth Wakefield also forms a part of the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle, the influence of Hepworth and fellow Yorkshire-born sculpture legend Henry Moore still resonating in the historic county. Hepworth done, we climb back into the comfort of our Mazda CX-5 and move on in style – it’s a cracking day up north (which makes a pleasant change, and bank holiday weekend too, what is going on?), so get ready to complete the three-corned polygon of visual arts.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park does exactly what it says on the tin, but what a park, and what sculptures – from Henry Moore to Anthony Gormley (and Hepworth too, of course) the 500 acres of staggering Yorkshire countryside are plentiful in cultural stimulation and, on a day like this, it’s quite possibly one of Britain’s best ways to spend an afternoon. The foresight of many to bring picnics and champagne rile us with envy. Major indoor exhibitions are held here too, Yinka Shonibare MBE’s FABRIC-ATION currently showing off the Nigerian-educated artist’s politically-charged work.
All in all, the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle features the works of over 200 of the world’s most important artists. The remaining point of this particular triangle takes us into a grey area for our Think Differently road trip – Leeds is a major city, with galleries, design and art scenes and bags of musical interest; but in the interests of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s (and because the Live at Leeds festival is taking place) we find it necessary to bend the rules a little. Leeds is our final stop in Yorkshire’s treasure trove of cultural temptation, and there’s plenty to tuck into. Leeds Art Gallery and the adjacent Henry Moore Institute complete the trinity – whilst outside of the triangle itself there’s plenty more to be had: Leeds Gallery recently hosting the brilliant Mock ‘N’ Roll exhibition, whilst Village Bookstore is one of many brilliant independent design stores and plays host to some inspiring micro-exhibitions.
Eyeballs suitably bashed by an unrelenting torrent of some of the country’s finest art, it’s time to let our hair down. Leeds is rife with music venues and there’s a vibrant local scene – we’ve arrived in town just in time for the annual Live at Leeds metropolitan festival (taking place not in fields, but in venues around the city) and get to fill our boots with intimate performances from the likes of King Krule and Savages, the former playing in a church selling beer and shorts. Good to see it’s not just us thinking differently, cheers vicar!