Wonders this way

Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Bretton Hall, West Bretton, Wakefield

Visitor centres are a mixed blessing. A necessary evil for most historic sites and cultural attractions, they are so often full of commercial tat and questionable displays that they detract from the point of the visit. It is possible to become so bogged down by shop and show that one almost forgets to venture forth and experience the real thing.

Not so at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This splendid 18th-century country estate, which holds within its woods, the fold of its hills, by lakeside and in formal garden the sculptures of such artists as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Antony Gormley and Sir Anthony Caro, has a new centre specifically designed to direct and whet the appetite for this stunning outdoor gallery.

When you sit on the first-floor slatted caf terrace overlooking this amphitheatre of gardens and parkland with tantalising glimpses of sculpture in the long grass, you can't wait to get out and explore.

Until this summer, sculpture park punters shared an uncertain tradesmen's entrance with students and visitors to Leeds University College Bretton Hall. Their only reassurance that they had come to the right place for sculpture was a kiosk selling ice-creams, postcards, the odd book and a few inadequate artefacts.

The routes into the park, the sculpture trail, the formal walled Bothy Garden with its indoor galleries and tearoom, or the Henry Moores resplendent among the sheep in the old deer park, were not obvious. For collections of national and international importance the entrance seemed makeshift.

Now, as part of a pound;9.5 million redevelopment, the sculpture park has a significant visitor centre with caf, auditorium, meeting rooms, galleries and bookshop, which makes sense of the space around it and does justice to the status of the collections.

Sculptures by Marino Marini (1901-80), one of Italy's most eminent 20th-century artists, are showing in the Bothy and Pavilion galleries from August 10 to November 17. For information about school visits and other education events contact the education department on 01924 830642. General number: 01924 830302; email: info@ysp.co.uk ; website: www.ysp.co.uk

The full version of this review appears in this week's TES

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