New Touring Exhibition: Sculpture by Women since 1945

28 February 2020

Breaking the Mould is the first extensive survey of post-war British sculpture by women in a public institution. Spanning more than seventy years and exploring the work of fifty sculptors, this exhibition provides a radical recalibration, addressing the many accounts of British sculpture that have marginalised women or airbrushed their work out of the art historical canon altogether. 

The exhibition opens at Longside Gallery at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (4 April – 14 June 2020, then tours the UK) and comprises just over fifty works ranging from sculpture to installation in a wide-ranging list of materials including hair, ceramic, paper, flowers and salt. All of the works in this exhibition have been selected from the Arts Council Collection, which holds more than 250 sculptures by over 150 women. The selected works highlight the Collection’s long-term commitment to women working in sculpture and the strength and diversity of a wide range of practices. Many of the represented artists have challenged ingrained 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 the public domain.  

The first work by a sculptor to be purchased for the Collection was a drawing by Barbara Hepworth, Reconstruction (1947), which is included in the exhibition alongside her wooden sculpture Icon, 1957. Since then, sculpture by women has been consistently acquired for the Collection. There are several new acquisitions from the Collection which are being displayed to the public for the very first time in this exhibition, these include Katie Cuddon’s A Problem of Departure, 2013, a ceramic sculpture of a pillow clasped between dimpled thighs; as well as Rose Finn-Kelcey’s God's Bog2001, a toilet cast in Jesmonite curling delicately like a seashell. The exhibition also offers an opportunity to see several works that have not been on public display for some time, including works by Wendy Taylor and Sokari Douglas Camp.



The works in Breaking the Mould are arranged into three loose, thematic sections: FiguredFormed and Found. These broad themes enable a range of shared concerns to emerge across time, space and material. A number of the accompanying labels have been written by a range of contributors including fellow artists, curators and community groups. These voices highlight the need for sustained collective action to broaden representation within the field of sculpture. The group show celebrates the strengths of sculpture made by women but also seeks to guard against the threat of this work slipping out of view. Through this deliberately restorative act, the exhibition seeks to inspire future generations, supporting the maxim ‘if she can see it she can be it’.

Jill Constantine, Head of Arts Council Collection, says: “We are thrilled to be presenting Breaking the Mould, this remarkable touring exhibition is the first of its kind, and provides a timely reminder of the significant contribution women have made to this particular art form. Breaking the Mould also asserts Arts Council Collection’s ambition to increase the lending of sculpture by women across the UK, to museums, galleries, schools, universities, heritage sites and other public spaces.”

The Arts Council Collection : New Touring Exhibition: Sculpture by Women since 1945
The Arts Council Collection : New Touring Exhibition: Sculpture by Women since 1945

Breaking the Mould has been 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).

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, alongside complementary texts from artists, writers and curators exploring the practices of over forty British sculptors, presenting fresh critical thinking on the subject. The book also features a timeline, highlighting key events and developments over the last seventy years.

The exhibition is also supported by a range of resources and activities for everyone and a series of engaging events at Longside Gallery during the course of the show.

Full list of participating artists: Anthea Alley, Phyllida Barlow, Rana Begum, Helen Chadwick, Alice Channer, Lygia Clark, Shelagh Cluett, Susan Collis, Jane Coyle, Katie Cuddon, Sokari Douglas Camp, Rose Finn-Kelcey, Jessie Flood-Paddock, Elisabeth Frink, Anya Gallaccio, Katherine Gili, Anthea Hamilton, Mona Hatoum, Jann Haworth, Holly Hendry, Barbara Hepworth, Shirazeh Houshiary, Karin Jonzen, Permindar Kaur, Mary Kelly, Liliane Lijn, Kim Lim, Gillian Lowndes, Sarah Lucas, Helen Marten, Mary Martin, Cathy De Monchaux, Lucia Nogueira, Margaret Organ, Emma Park, Cornelia Parker, Amalia Pica, Kathy Prendergast, Eva Rothschild, Meg Rutherford, Veronica Ryan, Grace Schwindt, Wendy Taylor, Hayley Tompkins, Shelagh Wakely, Rebecca Warren, Rachel Whiteread, Alison Wilding and Rosemary Young.

See the full list of tour dates and tour dates on the exhibition web page here.

You can currently order the accompanying publication from Cornerhouse Publications here.


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.