Friday, 13 May 2011

The Hepworth Wakefield

The grand opening of The Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire’s major new art gallery is on Saturday 21st May and Sunday 22nd May.

The stunning building is designed by the award-winning David Chipperfield Architects and boasts nearly two thousand square metres of light-filled gallery spaces, The Hepworth Wakefield is the largest purpose-built exhibition space outside London. 
The gallery will bring together work from Wakefield’s art collection, exhibitions by contemporary artists, and rarely seen works by Barbara Hepworth, one of the 20th Century’s most important artists, who was born and grew up in Wakefield.
There are six galleries with different displays, one introduces Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture, celebrating the extraordinary breadth and quality of her work, another looks at her work in relation to her European contemporaries and the influence of direct carving on modern British sculpture.  There is a display which explores Hepworth’s studio environment, her working practice in plaster, her collaborative relationships with bronze foundries and the monumental commissions she received in the last fifteen years of her life.

One of the galleries is devoted to The Hepworth Family Gift, which is a remarkable collection of Hepworth’s surviving working models for her bronze sculptures, the majority of which were made in plaster.  They consist of 44 full size models (surviving prototypes in plaster and aluminium, made in preparation for the works in bronze Hepworth executed from the mid-1950s to the end of her career). It also includes drawings and a large group of lithographs and screen prints by Barbara Hepworth.

The gift is one of the key reasons for building a new gallery for Wakefield, connecting Hepworth’s name with the city in which she was born and grew up.  Although Barbara Hepworth’s formative years were spent in Wakefield, her later years in Cornwall have resulted in the artist’s association with the town of St Ives.  Here she joined an active artistic community and this period is shown in another gallery.

Of course the Hepworth Wakefield has lots more going on, but it is an exceptional and exciting celebration of a great icon of British sculpture.  When I first started out as a sculptor I immersed myself in the work of Barbara Hepworth and was utterly inspired by her, and images of her working in her seventies, and feel a connection of sorts, through working in the same method of direct carving and by also being Yorkshire born.

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