Miró's Catalan totems to go on show in Yorkshire

The first major UK exhibition of surrealist Joan Miró's sculptures opens in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in the spring

Bulls, monsters and giant eggs will sprout from the countryside this spring as Yorkshire Sculpture Park stages the first major UK show of Joan Miró's sculpture.

The Catalan surrealist, whose paintings were the subject of a retrospective at Tate Modern last year, believed that "a sculpture must stand in the open air, in the middle of nature". Up to 20 of his works will be situated outdoors, with another 76 located in the YSP's indoor gallery. The works have been loaned by institutions including the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, and will include Personnage, a squat 1970 work cast from waste materials, and La Caresse d'un Oiseau, a three-metre painted bronze described by one critic as "a whimsical totem of female sexuality".

Miró was a late starter at sculpture, creating his first work in 1931 when he was 38. He made about 400 sculptures ranging from small ceramics to huge bronzes, before his death in 1983.

"His family said Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the correct place to show this work," said the gallery's director, Peter Murray, at the launch of the gallery's 2012 programme.

Just before Christmas, a Barbara Hepworth sculpture worth £500,0000 was stolen from Dulwich park in London, but Murray said he was confident the outdoor Mirós would be safe. "The Sculpture Park is secure. Like any major gallery or museum, we have 24-hour security though obviously I can't go into details."

The park had record numbers of visitors last year, with more than 350,000, up 100,000 on 2010. "Our audiences have been building over at least a decade," said Murray. "We're very skilful at curating shows which work indoors and outdoors so you get a sort of unity of statement and the same will happen with Miró. It will attract huge numbers and the imagination of many people."

The Miró show will consolidate Yorkshire's growing reputation among arts lovers. Last May, the Hepworth Wakefield opened seven miles away and received 350,000 visitors in 2011, twice the number predicted. The area has also received a boost thanks to David Hockney's Royal Academy exhibition of huge landscape paintings, though that concentrates on the East Yorkshire Wolds rather than the West Riding, where the YSP is situated.

Spread over 200 hectares, the YSP has the largest collection of Henry Moore's sculptures outside the artist's foundation in Perry Green, most displayed outdoors in spectacular landscapes. Further exhibitions scheduled for 2012 include two works by Jem Finer, formerly of the Pogues; an Anish Kapoor show curated from the Arts Council collection, and a show by Richard Long to coincide with an exhibition by the same artist at Hepworth Wakefield.

Claire Clare Lilley, programme director at Yorkshire Sculpture Gallery, said she was looking forward to seeing how Miró's sculpture would look alongside the gallery's collection of Barbara Hepworth works. The exhibition opens in March.


Alex Needham

The GuardianTramp

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