Photo: Longside Gallery, once a home for horses, now a home for hundreds of sculptures. Photo: David Prudames. © 24 Hour Museum.
As any estate agent worth their salt will tell you, the key is to ignore what a place looks like now and think of its potential.
The Director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Peter Murray is a man for whom that isn't just a cynical sales pitch. Speaking just across the valley from the park at the new home for Arts Council England's sculpture collection, Peter explained what looking beneath the surface is all about.
“I remember stumbling over fences and into smelly barns and saying, well, if you half close your eyes you can almost imagine a gallery here.”
That was two years ago. Now the former equestrian centre has been transformed into an open space to house and store sculpture from the largest loan collection of modern and contemporary British art in the world.
Photo: open and expansive, visitors can easily walk among the works, in this case Richard Deacon's A Kind of Blue (foreground) and David Batchelor's I Love King's Cross and King's Cross Loves ME. Photo: David Prudames. © 24 Hour Museum.
A joint venture between the Hayward Gallery - managers of the Arts Council collection - and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Longside Gallery is now open to the public and will present a changing programme of displays.
Offering not only an opportunity to get close to hundreds of sculptural works, the new gallery will also act as a base from which the collection can be loaned out to galleries all over the country.
As Gerry Robinson, Chairman of Arts Council England explained: “It allows us to literally take the wraps off the most important items in our collection, and it's a collection that deserves to be shown well and shown often.”
The new gallery and offices provide space to store a substantial portion of the 500 strong sculpture collection and also have a demonstration area where prospective borrowers can view the works.
Establishing the Council's first regional base, and a base for sculpture at that, in Yorkshire is a calculated move. With millions of people within an hour's drive and London a mere two hours away by train, it is not difficult to get to and, as the Sculpture Park itself has proved, the artform has huge interest in the area.
Photo: if you can tear yourself away from the stunning view, that's John Frankland's Shed and Siobhan Hapaska's Far behind you. Photo: David Prudames. © 24 Hour Museum.
The birthplace of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, Yorkshire is widely regarded as the home of British sculpture and Arts Council staff are hoping this will be a boost to Longside both as a gallery and in attracting potential borrowers.
“We're thrilled that we've finally got a foothold in the regions,” said Isobel Johnstone, Curator of the Arts Council Collection, “there is a huge focus on sculpture here and we hope to tap into that.”
Such is the unique context of the new gallery's surroundings that if you look out of its huge windows you can just make out a Henry Moore on the other side of the valley. Just one of several of his works that occupies the landscape, while a little to the left there's Hepworth's Family of Man.
The style may have changed but for the gallery's opening exhibition, the spirit of innovation has stayed the same.
In Good Form, on until October 19, presents a selection of works created by major artists from the early 1990s to the present day, including Damien Hirst, Rachel Whiteread and Anish Kapoor.
Photo: Anish Kapoor's enticing work is also part of the In Good Form opening show on until October 19. Photo: David Prudames © 24 Hour Museum.
A comprehensive collection taking in a variety of methods and materials, the works are spread out across an appealingly open space and seem an appropriate way to represent an evolving catalogue.
The height of the building, its vast windows and its neutral colour scheme are echoed by the various artist's explorations of space. Rachel Whiteread's Untitled (Six Spaces) (1994) constructs the empty space beneath ordinary domestic chairs, while Graham Fagen's Former and Form (1993) works in a similar way to offer both the gap and what fills it.
Other piece's such as Anish Kapoor's Untitled (1995) work on the balance between interior and exterior. A mirrored cavity penetrates a wall and hypnotically draws the viewer into an infinite void. My eyes tricked, I wanted to put my hand in just to see if it does go on forever.
John Frankland's famous Shed (1994) is equally teasing. The shiny exterior reflects outwards as if to offer no sense of an interior space, but a closed door mischeviously suggests the contrary.
Photo: Photo: David Prudames. © 24 Hour Museum.
A particular highlight is Cornelia Parker's Neither From Nor Towards (1992) in which she has recovered brick from a house lost over the white cliffs of Dover to create a suspended landscape. It took gallery technicians four days to put together and the result is subtly dramatic and attractive to the extent that I could happily spend all day staring at it.
Across the valley from the excellent Hepworth centenary show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the exhibition somehow inherits and continues the evolution of contemporary British Sculpture.
With changing teams of Arts Council purchasers constantly out hunting for new and innovative work there's no reason to suggest this evolution will stop. It seems cyclical and appropriate that the growing should take place in the Bretton Hall grounds.
Most importantly, the new gallery offers a custom-built means of exposing a national collection to the public. Like much of the sculpture itself, it's all about looking beneath the surface.