The Calder is a the Hepworth Wakefield’s “contemporary art space” located in a 19th century mill next to the main building which opened last year. So what’s inside?
The large room was completely filled with lots and lots of old tyres of different sizes. This was a recreation of “YARD”, a work devised in 1961 by the American artist Allan Kaprow. The Hepworth’s website tells us that:
YARD was first realised by artist Allan Kaprow (USA, 1927 – 2006) in 1961 in the open-air sculpture garden behind the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York as part of the group exhibition Environments, Situations, Spaces. Five existing sculptures in the courtyard, including works by Barbara Hepworth and Alberto Giacometti, were wrapped in protective tar paper before Kaprow filled the space with hundreds of car tyres. Dispersed in no particular order, Kaprow encouraged visitors to walk on, climb, rearrange and interact with them.
Filling a large room with old tyres. Is that art? well it certainly isn’t a traditional work where visitors passively look at a picture, sculpture, video or installation. YARD is meant to be an active experience. On entering the space we were asked to sign a disclaimer and then were invited to walk or scrabble over the tyres, move them around, pile them up, basically anything we wanted to so long as it wasn’t going to injure anyone (so no throwing them around).
And that’s exactly what people were doing, especially the family groups who were visiting. The kids seemed to be really enjoying themselves – as were the two young members of staff who were making their own creations – a haphazard pyramid and a giant prone figure.
It rather reminded me of the ball pools that they have in IKEA, but in this case older kids and adults were allowed to join in. And all the visitors appeared to be having great fun!
We didn’t make a lot of effort ourselves – we didn’t want to get our clothes dirty!. But we did scramble over the piles and move a few around. But to be honest we enjoyed watching the family groups and younger adults getting stuck in.
Is it art? Well I’m no expert, and I have to admit that I was sceptical before our visit, but afterwards I’d changed my mind. It wasn’t “beautiful” but people were engaging with the work, changing it, making their own creations and enjoying themselves. Surely that’s what art is supposed to be about.