Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945

An Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition


A major new touring exhibition challenging the male-dominated narratives of post-war British sculpture by presenting a diverse and significant range of ambitious work by women.

Breaking the Mould is the first survey of post-war British sculpture by women. This exhibition provides a radical recalibration, addressing the many accounts of British sculpture that have marginalised women or airbrushed their work from art history altogether.

The exhibition surveys seventy-five years and explores the work of over forty sculptors. All of the works have been selected from the Arts Council Collection, which holds more than 250 sculptures by over 150 women. The exhibition features a number of sculptures on public display for the first time since they were purchased for the nation.

Breaking the Mould represents the strength and diversity of a wide range of practices. Many of the represented artists have challenged widespread 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 public sites.

Featured artists include Barbara HepworthElisabeth FrinkKim LimCornelia ParkerVeronica RyanRachel Whiteread and Anthea Hamilton


Breaking the Mould is an Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition initiated in response to Women Working in Sculpture from 1960 to the Present Day: Towards a New Lexicon, a research project led by Catherine George (University of Coventry) and Hilary Gresty (independent). 



"The squidgy folds and gelatinous wobbles of work by Rachel Whiteread, Holly Hendry and others are hard to keep your hands off – and tell us much about overcoming sexist attitudes in art."

★★★★☆ Guardian


"...a zesty and defiant little show. The space practically bristles with wit and possibility."

★★★★☆ The Telegraph 


'invigorating and inspiring'

★★★★★ inews 


Tour Dates & Venues



Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park

​29 May – 5 September 2021

Djanogly Gallery, Lakeside Arts, University of Nottingham

18 September 2021 – 9 January 2022

The Levinsky Gallery, University of Plymouth and The Box, Plymouth 

26 March - 5 June 2022

Ferens Art Gallery, Hull 

2 July – 2 October 2022

The New Art Gallery Walsall

21 October 2022 - 16 April 2023


For more information or support with accessing the exhibition or resources get in touch:

The Arts Council Collection : Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945

Explore the Exhibition

Breaking the Mould is available to view as a 3D walkthrough using the player below. This virtual experience enables you to explore the physical exhibition as if you were there, at any time, remotely on a digital device.

As well as information about the featured artworks, the walkthrough also includes a series of short videos introducing key works from the exhibition.

How to use the virtual exhibition tour:

• Click on the blue box on the landing screen below to enter.
• Once inside the virtual exhibition, you can move forward and backwards by clicking on the white circles on the floor.
• To navigate left and right, click and hold down your mouse button (or equivalent) and drag left or right.
• Click on the (i) icons next to the artworks to bring up more information about artists or art pieces.
• To watch the videos, click on the play icons.

For Full Screen Viewing
Click class="iframe-video" Here

The timeline below plots some of the key events shaping the production of sculpture by women in Britain since the formation of the Arts Council Collection in 1946.  These include art world moments and developments of social and political importance.

The definitions in the timeline are sourced from the Oxford English Dictionary as of March 2020. Language around some of these terms changes frequently.

  • Timeline content created by Laura Biddle and Angelica Vanasse

Leeds Beckett University Fine Art Students: Breaking the Mould Publication

This publication by the 5:1 Associates, six graduate artists from Leeds Beckett University's BA Fine Art course, explores the artists, artworks and themes presented in Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945.

The students visited Longside Gallery in 2019 and were introduced to the exhibition by curator Natalie Rudd. In response they have worked together to create this publication which positions their practices and reasearch alongside those of the artists included in the exhibition. It explores selected themes from the exhibition, including networks, materiality and identity, and looks in more depth at selected artworks by Mona Hatoum, Rachel Whiteread and Anthea Hamilton.

Breaking the Mould: Study Day

On Saturday 4 December 2021, in collaboration with Arts Council Collection, Lakeside Arts, Nottingham hosted an informal and engaging day of presentations and discussion to shed light on the important contribution made by women to the field of modern and contemporary British sculpture.

The panel included leading artists, curators and scholars who shared their latest research and thinking highlighting areas ripe for further investigation.

Featured Artworks

Leg Chair (Jane Birkin), 2011

Leg Chair (Jane Birkin) by Anthea Hamilton is one of a series of 10 chairs, which she began making in 2009...
Gut Feelings (Stromatolith), 2016

Holly Hendry is interested in defining the architecture of spaces by exploring the possibilities of surface, colour and density, which is inherent in the wide range of materials she uses in her installations.
Untitled (6 Spaces), 1994

Rachel Whiteread’s sculptures are often constructed from 'negative spaces'... Lim
No. 429 SFold, 2013

For her series titled Fold, Rana Begum works with industrial materials, including powder-coated aluminium and steel...

Related Content


Breaking the Mould is accompanied by a fully-illustrated publication produced by Hayward Gallery Publishing, featuring an essay on the subject by Natalie Rudd, Senior Curator of the Arts Council Collection, and curator of the exhibition.
Learning Resources

Explore the range of resources that accompany the exhibition here
Breaking the Mould with Gomersal Primary

Find out about the Arts Council Collection’s ongoing partnership with Gomersal Primary School in West Yorkshire, as part of the learning programme at our centre for sculpture at Longside, Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.