Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945

Sarah Lucas NUD CYCLADIC 7, 2010 FAD MAGAZINE
Sarah Lucas NUD CYCLADIC 7, 2010 Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the artist Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund

Breaking the Mould is the first extensive survey of post-war British sculpture by artists identifying as women in a public institution. Spanning more than seventy years and exploring the work of fifty sculptors, this exhibition provides a radical recalibration, addressing the many accounts of British sculpture that have marginalised women or airbrushed their work out of the art historical canon altogether.

Veronica Ryan Territorial, 1986  Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London  © the artist.  FAD MAGAZINE
Veronica Ryan Territorial, 1986 Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the artist.

The exhibition opens at Longside Gallery at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and comprises just over fifty works ranging from sculpture to installation in a wide-ranging list of materials including hair, ceramic, paper, flowers and salt. Participating artists are: Anthea Alley, Phyllida Barlow, Rana Begum, Helen Chadwick, Alice Channer, Lygia Clark, Shelagh Cluett, Susan Collis, Jane Coyle, Katie Cuddon, Sokari Douglas Camp, Rose Finn-Kelcey, Jessie Flood-Paddock, Elisabeth Frink, Anya Gallaccio, Katherine Gili, Anthea Hamilton, Mona Hatoum, Jann Haworth, Holly Hendry, Barbara Hepworth, Shirazeh Houshiary, Karin Jonzen, Permindar Kaur, Mary Kelly, Liliane Lijn, Kim Lim, Gillian Lowndes, Sarah Lucas, Helen Marten, Mary Martin, Cathy De Monchaux, Lucia Nogueira, Margaret Organ, Emma Park, Cornelia Parker, Amalia Pica, Kathy Prendergast, Eva Rothschild, Meg Rutherford, Veronica Ryan, Grace Schwindt, Wendy Taylor, Hayley Tompkins, Shelagh Wakely, Rebecca Warren, Rachel Whiteread, Alison Wilding and Rosemary Young.

All of the works in this exhibition have been selected from the Arts Council Collection, managed by Southbank Centre, which holds more than 250 sculptures by over 150 women. The selected works highlight the Collection’s long-term commitment to women working in sculpture and the strength and diversity of a wide range of practices. Many of the represented artists have challenged ingrained notions of sculpture as a ‘male occupation’ by embracing new materials, subjects and approaches. Others have avoided institutional bias by producing work for alternative spaces or the public domain.

Barbara Hepworth Icon, 1957  Arts Council Collection  Southbank Centre, London  © Bowness FAD MAGAZINE
Barbara Hepworth Icon, 1957 Arts Council Collection Southbank Centre, London © Bowness

The first work by a sculptor to be purchased for the Collection was a drawing by Barbara Hepworth, Reconstruction (1947), which is included in the exhibition alongside her wooden sculpture Icon, 1957. Since then, sculpture by women has been consistently acquired for the Collection. There are several new acquisitions from the Collection which are being displayed to the public for the very first time in this exhibition, these include Katie Cuddon ’s A Problem of Departure, 2013, a ceramic sculpture of a pillow clasped between dimpled thighs; as well as Rose Finn-Kelcey ’s God’s Bog, 2001, a toilet cast in Jesmonite curling delicately like a seashell. The exhibition also offers an opportunity to see several works that have not been on public display for some time, including works by Wendy Taylor and Sokari Douglas Camp .

The works in Breaking the Mould are arranged into three loose, thematic sections: Figured, Formed and Found. These broad themes enable a range of shared concerns to emerge across time, space and material. A number of the accompanying labels have been written by a range of contributors including fellow artists, curators and community groups. These voices highlight the need for sustained collective action to broaden representation within the field of sculpture. The group show celebrates the strengths of sculpture made by women but also seeks to guard against the threat of this work slipping out of view. Through this deliberately restorative act, the exhibition seeks to inspire future generations, supporting the maxim ‘if she can see it she can be it’.

Jill Constantine, Head of Arts Council Collection, says :

“We are thrilled to be presenting Breaking the Mould , this remarkable touring exhibition is the first of its kind, and provides a timely reminder of the significant contribution women have made to this particular art form. Breaking the Mould also asserts Arts Council Collection’s ambition to increase the lending of sculpture by women across the UK, to museums, galleries, schools, universities, heritage sites and other public spaces.”

Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945 An Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition 4 April – 14 June 2020 Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, then touring

3rd July – 6th September 2020 The New Art Gallery Walsall
25th September 2020 – 23rd January 2021 The Levinsky Gallery, The Arts Institute, University of Plymouth
27th March – 20th June 2021 Djanogly Gallery, Lakeside Arts, University of Nottingham
3rd July – 3th October 2021 Ferens Art Gallery, Hull

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine Founder and co-publisher Art of Conversation and founder of the platform @worldoffad