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The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds is closed for refurbishment until Summer 2024.

Beyond the Visual: Blindness and Expanded Sculpture

A splayed hand touching a bronze plate with lines of single black letters recessed into it. The letters are from a Snellen eye test chart and reduce in size from top to bottom.

This three-year research project aims to enhance blind people’s experience of art in museums. It will culminate with a landmark exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute in November 2025, foregrounding work by blind and partially blind artists.

We are thrilled to announce this ground-breaking project, made possible through collaboration with Dr Ken Wilder and Dr Aaron McPeake (University of the Arts London) and Shape Arts.

Beyond the Visual will explore engagements with contemporary sculpture using senses other than sight, challenging the dominance of sight in the making and appreciation of art.

A woman is raising her hand to touch metal sculptures hanging from the ceiling. There are seven of them, each a vertical slice cut from a bell.

“We want to ensure the exhibition offers a complete experience to the beholder, enhancing tactile and non-visual sensory interactions with the various artworks.”

Dr Ken Wilder, Reader in Spatial Design at Chelsea College of Arts and one of the curators of Beyond the Visual

This landmark exhibition will mark the first major UK-based sculpture showcase predominantly featuring works by blind or partially blind artists within a national institution, and is rare in having a blind curator as intrinsic to the project.

Integral to the participatory nature of the project are extensive public engagement activities. This will include a research season at the Henry Moore Institute, running from October 2024 until March 2025. A programme of public events will also accompany the exhibition.

Beyond the Visual: Blindness and Expanded Sculpture is the recipient of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) inaugural Exhibition Fund, a major £250,000 grant supporting innovative, collaborative exhibition approaches.

Shape Arts will provide invaluable insights on artist selection and exhibition accessibility. Working with the researchers’ extensive network, the project will generate the first international database of blind and partially blind sculptural artists.

Central to Beyond the Visual is the connection between Dr Ken Wilder and Dr Aaron McPeake, who is registered blind.

The two artists have been collaborating for nearly two decades since they first met during their PhD studies at Chelsea College of Arts. Together, they question the assumption that art appreciation and creation are confined to those with full visual perception.

Previously, they spearheaded an AHRC-funded network (with partners The Henry Moore Institute and Shape Arts) exploring non-sighted modes of engaging art, culminating in a public symposium hosted by London’s Wellcome Collection.

The upcoming exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute will draw upon the collective knowledge of this multi-disciplinary network.

A splayed hand touching a bronze plate with lines of single black letters recessed into it. The letters are from a Snellen eye test chart and reduce in size from top to bottom.
A person holding a cane reaches up to touch a large, blue, cloud-like fibreglass sculpture suspended from the ceiling.

“As one of the major centres for the study of sculpture internationally, it is vital that we ensure a consideration of sculpture and its histories from the perspective of all makers and audiences alike.

“This urgent collaborative project will involve extensive consultation and we’re excited to embed this learning not only in the exhibition itself but long into the future.” 

Laurence Sillars, Head of the Henry Moore Institute

Interview with the curators

Find out more about the exhibition in this interview with Dr Ken Wilder, who is UAL Reader in Spatial Design and Principal Investigator for Beyond the Visual: Blindness and Expanded Sculpture, and his long-term collaborator Dr Aaron McPeake, artist Associate Lecturer at Chelsea College of Arts, and Co-Investigator for the project, who is registered blind.

Read the full interview on UAL’s website