Archive Lives Part 2: Documenting Women's Sculptural Practices in Britain, 1963-1993

Archive Lives explores the position of women working in sculpture in the changing artistic landscape of Britain in the latter half of the twentieth century.

This is the second of a two-part display showcasing important holdings relating to women’s sculptural practices in the Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Museums and Galleries’ interdisciplinary collections. Spanning sculpture, works on paper, archive and library material, these collections provide a unique opportunity to view women’s art practices across their different manifestations.

Accounts of British sculpture in the 1950s and 1960s have typically focused on the influence of Anthony Caro’s teaching on the Advanced Sculpture course at St Martin’s School of Art, where he championed abstract constructed sculpture and led the shift from carving to welding. While a small number of women were admitted to study at St Martin’s, many later recalled having been subjected to overt sexism in a highly male-dominated environment. Women were similarly at a disadvantage in exhibition contexts, where they were heavily outnumbered by male artists, particularly in the growing number of survey exhibitions dedicated to contemporary sculpture. It was only in the late 1970s with the advent of the women’s movement that this situation began to be contested, leading to a number of all-women exhibitions.

Drawing on this historical and cultural context, Archive Lives Part 2 presents the work of five women who attended art school in the 1950s and 1960s and were connected through selected galleries and exhibitions in the 1970s and 1980s: Shelagh Cluett (1947-2007), Liliane Lijn (b. 1939), Kim Lim (1936-1997), Wendy Taylor (b. 1945) and Gillian Wise (1936-2020). Kim Lim, Wendy Taylor and Shelagh Cluett all studied at St Martin’s, with Taylor going on to adopt the welding practices that were taught there. Liliane Lijn, Kim Lim and Gillian Wise (along with fellow artists Tess Jaray and Rita Donagh) were invited to organise the second Hayward Annual in 1978, an exhibition which included the work of Lijn, Wise and Taylor, among others. During the 1980s Lim and Cluett were both represented by Nicola Jacobs Gallery, where their work was shown together in group exhibitions.

Celebrating a diversity of practices, including kinetic and Constructivist art, large-scale outdoor sculpture, drawing, printmaking, and the use of unconventional sculptural materials, such as wire, latex and bamboo, this display provides a space to re-evaluate women’s contributions to sculpture in Britain over a period of thirty years. 

Please note that Liliane Lijn’s Atom Body Was Light 1963 will be activated from Tuesday to Sunday between 1:30 - 2:30pm.

Researching Women in Sculpture

Archive Lives is programmed alongside the Henry Moore Institute Research Season Researching Women in Sculpture which runs until September 2022. The display continues upstairs with the library display The Show Must Go On: Exhibiting Sculpture by Women in Twentieth-Century Britain.

Researching Women in Sculpture reflects upon women's contribution to the field of sculpture, investigating archival and collecting practices that have historically obscured work by women and suggesting strategies for how these might be addressed going forward.

Find out more about our Researching Women in Sculpture Research Season

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 Friday, 10am - 5pm
Archive of Sculptors' Papers: Tuesday to Friday, by prior appointment