A family visit to the RWA Sculpture Open Exhibition & The Sculpture Lab
Located in a wonderful Grade II listed building on Queen's Road in Clifton, The Royal West of England Academy (RWA) is the UK's only regional Royal Academy of Art and one of only five in total, alongside those in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and London. I've visited this Bristol institution several times, but I've never really thought of it as somewhere to take the children before now.
But when I heard about the RWA Sculpture Open Exhibition, I decided it was time to take the kids along with me. According to the RWA, this biennial exhibition will "celebrate contemporary sculptural practice in all its many forms... From bronze casting to 3D printing, stone carving to found objects, sculpture is arguably the most diverse of artistic mediums... Crossing boundaries between architecture, design, manufacturing and craft sculpture is a constantly evolving art form that pervades our lives like no other - from public monuments to the coins we carry in our pockets, sculpture is all around us."
We visited on a Saturday afternoon, and after collecting our admission stickers from the friendly welcome desk, we made our way upstairs to the main exhibition hall. It was a bright and welcoming space, with plenty of room to walk around all of the sculptures, and it provided ample opportunity to see which of the works captured our attention. Now, I'm not pretending to be an expert on the practice of sculpture, but I know what I like, and the pieces that particularly caught my eye were 'Domus' by Ros Burgin, 'Permanently Temporary Fence' by Graham Guy-Robinson, and 'Grace' by Nik Ramage RWA.
My son, however, was totally transfixed by 'On Longing' by Lesley Hilling, and he was already talking about designing his own version of it before we got home. Almost all of the work is for sale (unfortunately we couldn't afford the £10,000 price tag for this one!), but if you take a particular fancy to any of the pieces, you can view and buy them in the on-line shop.
The Sculpture Lab is situated next to the main exhibition and is "a space designed to encourage interaction and participation", with materials including cardboard, wire, clay, pipe cleaners and beads provided at different 'making-stations'. Everyone is invited to have a go at creating their own sculpture, big or small, before adding them to the indoor sculpture park which has been created by children especially for this exhibition. There is also a cute reading area with beanbags and plenty of books provided for those who want to learn more about famous sculptors.
The Sculpture Lab is a lovely quiet and relaxing space. Despite the fact that we visited on a Saturday afternoon, we had the room to ourselves for a lot of the time. We all really enjoyed tinkering with the different materials and it was a great way to spend some time getting creative as a family, without any distractions. Although we stayed for around an hour, we were enjoying it so much that we didn't really want to leave, but before we did, we proudly added our mini creations to the ever-growing sculpture park.
I highly recommend a visit to the exhibition, even if you don't usually visit art galleries, as you will no doubt find at least one sculpture that interests, intrigues, or inspires you! The RWA is a welcoming place, and The Sculpture Lab is a great addition which will keep all the family entertained. Before we left, we added our 'dream sculpture' to a map of Bristol, which is situated next to the wonderful outdoor terrace. It's a lovely local touch and really got us thinking about what kind of sculptures we'd like to see around our city.
The Sculpture Open Exhibition is at The RWA until 2nd June. Book on-line and save £1 on adult admission tickets. By purchasing a ticket to the exhibition, you also receive entry to Gaudier-Brzeska: Disputing the Earth and The RWA Sculpture Lab.
The RWA is open throughout the year, Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5.30pm, Sunday 11am-5pm (closed on Mondays). Check the website for bank holiday opening times.
Disclaimer: I received complimentary family entry in return for an honest review. All thoughts and photos are my own.