Interview with Dr. Helen Pheby, Curator of Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Yorkshire Scultpure Park is hosting a new exhibition, At Home, from 19 March until 3 July. As the first in a series curated from the Arts Council Collection as part of the National Partners programme, it  marks the Collection’s 70th anniversary. It displays works which focus on  the familiar, introspective and domestic aspects of life, all within the Bothy Gallery, sharing over 40 works from 1937 to 2004. We caught up with Dr. Helen Pheby, curator at YSP to discuss the inspiration and domestic resonance of the work.

A: What can we expect to see in the upcoming exhibition “At Home”?
HP: At Home shares over 40 works from the Arts Council Collection of domestic scale or theme dating from 1937 to 2004 by artists including Yoko Ono, Joseph Beuys, Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Sophie Calle, Fiona Banner, Arman, Dan Graham, Paul Rooney, Roy Lichtenstein, Barbara Hepworth, Jordan Baseman, Robert Filliou, Bill Brandt, Jenny Holzer and Mark Wallinger – to name just a few!

This is the first exhibition of the Arts Council Collection National Partners programme – part of the Collection’s 70th Anniversary celebrations to open access even further to their excellent holdings. In researching the Collection I was excited to realise that the key moments and movements in the history of art of the last century can be traced through the near 8,000 works they hold for the nation. In this exhibition, for example, you can witness the shift from representational, impressionist, painting in Flowers Against Chintz (1956) by the Bloomsbury Group artist Duncan Grant, through to the powerful social commentary photography of Bill Brandt, to conceptual art and the appropriation of ‘ready-made’ objects as pioneered by Marcel Duchamp, evident in works such as My Glasses (1994) by Jonathan Monk. It’s also the first opportunity to experience Flat 23 (2002) by Paul Rooney since it entered the Collection, which is a three-part film and sound work in which a woman lists the objects that used to be in her home, destined for demolition.

 A: What initially inspired the theme of the show?
HP: We wanted to celebrate that the Arts Council Collection has had a significant home in Yorkshire since 2003, their Longside centre at YSP ensuring the care and wide display of works, including co-programming Longside Gallery, as well as this innovative new stage of partnership. This is the first exhibition in the significantly restored Bothy Gallery, which people lived in for many years before it became an exhibition space, so we were keen to explore that heritage as well as the strong sense of ownership that people have over YSP, as sanctuary and familiar place. The theme also ties into a strand of our work with hard-to-reach communities, including those who have made the region their home whether by choice or forced migration.

 A: Could you discuss the significance of Roger Hiorns’ sculpture Seizure?
HP: Seizure (2008/2013) is an incredible artwork, and one significant in the history of sculpture. Originally commissioned by Artangel and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, a council flat due for demolition was filled with 75,000 litres of copper sulphate solution, which formed crystals on every surface including even the bath. Rather than the work be demolished with the building, it was acquired by the Arts Council Collection in 2011 thanks to a gift by the artist, the commissioners, the Art Fund and the support of The Henry Moore Foundation. It is on long-loan to YSP, presented in an award-winning concrete structure by Adam Khan Architects, and is very important work to our hundreds of thousands of annual visitors.

A: What is it about sculpture as a medium that so convincingly portrays the concept of “home”?
HP: I think it’s to do with physical and conceptual connections. The fact that, for example, the door handles cast by Rachel Whiteread suggest a door, in a house, which was used daily. It naturally leads the mind to imagine the objects in real-life situations and how they relate to our own life. The objects we choose are inherently linked to who we are and the lives we live, becoming incredibly poignant artefacts.

A: The Bothy Gallery at YSP has just received a significant donation from the Art Council, what are your future plans for the space?
: We did receive a substantial grant from Arts Council England, as well as significant support from our Friends, Patrons and visitors, all of which we are very grateful for. By restoring this important building, which dates back to 1811, we’ve secured the space not only for future generations but also as a space for exhibitions and especially young artists – the Bothy Lab giving them a potentially career-making platform.

At Home will be held at Yorkshire Sculpture Park from 19 March until 3 July.

1. Images from At Home: Damien Hirst, Relationships. Courtesy of Southbank Centre, London, Damien Hirst and Science Ltd, and