If you go down to the woods at Hat Hill Copse, you’re sure of a big surprise. Standing in clearings and under the canopy of mature mixed forest you could happen upon a jolly fish on a bicycle, a pair of twirling, 4m-high hippo-like creatures frozen mid-waltz or perhaps the crowd of 40 silent copper and steel human figures. This is Sculpture at Goodwood.
The initiative of patrons and collectors Wilfred and Jeannette Cass, this sculpture park near Chichester in West Sussex was opened five years ago to provide funding and exhibition space for contemporary British sculpture.
Wilfred Cass is more usually associated with two-dimensional imagery. Twenty years ago, with son Mark, he founded the photographic library, Image Bank UK. He remains chairman and joint managing director.
‘The foundation commissions all the works and provides funding for materials and transportation to encourage sculptors to work with new materials and at a scale they may previously have been unable to afford,’ explains a spokeswoman. ‘The works then go on show and all are for sale.’
Along with celebrating its fifth birthday, Sculpture at Goodwood has also achieved a coup this summer, working with the Royal Society of Arts placing a series of sculptures on the famous empty plinth in Trafalgar Square. The first of the series is the controversial marble figure of Christ, by sculptor Mark Wallinger.
At any one time there are between 40 and 50 pieces exhibited in the 8ha Sussex park; more than 20 new pieces have been commissioned this year. Works are by both established artists and newcomers. An impressive roll call includes William Pye, Philip King, Nicola Hicks, Allen Jones, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Lynn Chadwick and Elisabeth Frink.
The palette of materials is broad, consisting of a range of metals spanning from massive cast bronzes, steel and copper to an amazing 2.5m tall urn constructed in ordinary, common-or-garden galvanised wire coat hangers.
Together with offering imaginative and much-needed exhibition space, the Sculpture at Goodwood foundation is dedicated to matching artists with new audiences and potential buyers. There is the option to buy what you see, or to commission your own piece.
The foundation publishes neat little books of artists and their work and also has a CD-ROM-based digital library where it’s possible to call up an individual artist’s work.
If you can’t get to Goodwood, take a virtual tour on the website (WWW.sculpture.org.uk).
But there’s nothing to beat walking through the Sussex forest and seeing these often-massive installations in their open-air setting.