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Portable Sculpture

18 May – 29 August 2021

Release date: Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Kara Chatten

  • By Kara Chatten
  • Henry Moore Institute
  • Marketing & Communications Manager (Leeds)

Henry Moore Institute is delighted to present a group exhibition exploring sculptures made to fold up, pack down or to travel.

Portable Sculpture brings together fifteen artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Marcel Duchamp, Barry Flanagan, Mohamad Hafez, Do Ho Suh, Veronica Ryan, with work from 1934 to the present day on display. Several works are being exhibited in the UK for the first time and the exhibition includes new sculptures by Claire Ashley and James Ackerley.

The long history of portable sculpture dates back to the small, carved stones made by nomadic tribes during the Ice Age. A combination of unstable geopolitics and sweeping economic change during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has made questions about home and identity, migration and travel, or stability and impermanence ever more pressing. The exhibition explores a variety of responses to circumstances in which permanence is difficult to achieve.

The exhibition begins with sculptures by Louise Bourgeois, Marcel Duchamp and Hannelore Baron who had to leave continental Europe at the outbreak of World War Two. In some cases works were designed to be taken on the journey, in others, such as Bourgeois’ Untitled 1953, they were made later and reflect a sense of loss and grief from leaving home.

A growing family, gentrification and transport costs are all further reasons for making sculpture that can be easily disassembled, or flat-packed. Innovative solutions by Charles Hewlings and Alexander Calder were designed to allow for economical, low impact transportation, while other works cleverly circumvent a lack of studio or storage space.

New work made for the exhibition includes a large-scale inflatable sculpture by Claire Ashley, which will make its journey from her Chicago studio in a back-pack. Manchester-based sculptor James Ackerley will be revisiting his Studio Objects series of 2015 and making three new portable flat-pack sculptures especially for the exhibition.

Other sculptures in the exhibition by Liz Ensz, Mohamad Hafez, Do Ho Suh and Andrea Zittel respond to contemporary geopolitical and social contexts by making and remaking the world. In each case the new territory is a mobile one: works from Mohamad Hafez’s Baggage Series 2006-16, are tiny portable worlds reflecting the nostalgia of a refugee. Meanwhile, Liz Ensz unrolls entire landscapes from a rucksack to form Convexity/Concavity 2015.

The final section of the exhibition contains a group of works by Veronica Ryan, Romuald Hazoumè, Walead Beshty and Barry Flanagan that all reflect the movement of people and objects, particularly through the systems of transport, bureaucracy, exchange and consumption. Beshty's Fedex Sculptures, made between 2004-15, are a direct result of the movement of an object (in this case, a glass box) through time and space, whilst Hazoumè’s portrait masks speak of the movement of both goods and human labour.

The exhibition is curated by the Henry Moore Institute’s Research Curator Dr Clare O’Dowd and is part of their ongoing exhibitions programme that continues rigorous study into sculpture and its histories. 

The word sculpture is often associated with large, immobile objects that are weighty and permanent. But sculpture is not always fixed in place: it can be mobile, agile and endlessly adaptable. The portability of the sculptures in this exhibition is sometimes an indication of geopolitical situations, and sometimes of personal circumstances, but always of artistic ingenuity.

Dr Clare O'Dowd, Research Curator, the Henry Moore Institute

A series of research events and activities accompanies the exhibition. Including speakers TJ Demos (University of California, Santa Cruz), Dr Heather Diack (University of Miami), Dr Jo Melvin (University of the Arts, London / Barry Flanagan Estate) and artists Claire Ashley and Mohamad Hafez.


For further information, images or to arrange a visit please contact

Kara Chatten, Marketing and Communications Manager
Henry Moore Institute

Emily Dodgson, Head of Marketing and Communications
Henry Moore Foundation


Notes to Editors

Full list of exhibiting artists in Portable Sculpture:

  • James Ackerley
  • Claire Ashley
  • Hannelore Baron
  • Walead Beshty
  • Louise Bourgeois
  • Alexander Calder
  • Marcel Duchamp
  • Liz Ensz
  • Barry Flanagan
  • Mohamad Hafez
  • Romuald Hazoumè
  • Charles Hewlings
  • Do Ho Suh
  • Veronica Ryan
  • Andrea Zittel

About the Henry Moore Institute

The Henry Moore Institute is situated on The Headrow, next to Leeds Art Gallery, in Leeds city centre's cultural hub, just a five-minute walk from Leeds Station.

The Henry Moore Institute welcomes everyone to visit their Galleries, Research Library and Archive to experience, study and enjoy sculpture from around the world. The Institute can be found in the centre of Leeds, the city where Henry Moore (1898-1986) began his training as a sculptor. Their changing programme of historical, modern and contemporary exhibitions and events encourage thinking about what sculpture is, how it is made and the artists who make it.

As part of the Henry Moore Foundation, they are a hub for sculpture, connecting a global network of artists and scholars, continuing research into the art form and ensuring that sculpture is accessible and celebrated by a wide audience.

Open Tuesday- Sunday 10am-5pm, free entry

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About The Henry Moore Foundation

The Henry Moore Foundation was founded by the artist and his family in 1977 to encourage public appreciation of the visual arts. Today it supports innovative sculpture projects, devises an imaginative programme of exhibitions and research worldwide, and preserves the legacy of Moore himself: one of the great sculptors of the 20th century, who did so much to bring the art form to a wider audience.

Venue details

Venue address

Henry Moore Institute
The Headrow
United Kingdom
T: 0113 246 7467

Opening times

Galleries: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm

Research Library: Monday to Saturday, 10am - 5pm; Sunday, 1 - 5pm
Archive of Sculptors' Papers: Tuesday to Friday, by prior appointment

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