Hepworth Wakefield


On way way home from the G.F Smith factory in Hull, I stopped off in Dewsbury for a couple of days to catch up with two of my best pals. A great excuse for a catch up and it meant we could have a little trip to the Hepworth Wakefield.

It was also announced this week that Art Fund have crowned Hepworth Wakefield their museum of the year. This is the largest museum prize in the world and is 'awarded to one outstanding museum which has shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement across the preceeding 12 months'. Perfectly timed for my post!

Hepworth Wakefield was designed by architect David Chipperfield after Wakefield council picked him from their RIBA international competition to design the art gallery. He’s also known in the UK for his work on the Turner Contemporary in Margate. Chipperfield describes the Hepworth as ‘dipping its toes in water’: the gallery sits right on the bank of the River Calder. The area in which the Hepworth stands is a testament to Wakefield's past: there are beautiful Victorian warehouses from the area’s industrial glory days and an amazing medieval Chapel of St Mary the Virgin which was rebuilt by George Gilbert Scott in 1839. The Hepworth does complement the scale of the buildings surrounding it, avoiding seeming out of place whilst retaining its own architectural style.

Dame Barbara Hepworth was born in Wakefield in 1903. She’s one of the most influential modernist sculptors of her time and was one of few female artists to achieve international stardom during the early-mid 20th century. She studied with some equally acclaimed male artists such as sculptors John Skeaping (whom she married in 1925-1933) and Henry Moore, who also now has a gallery dedicated to him in Yorkshire. Hepworth later met Ben Nicholson a British abstract painter. In the early 30’s they revealed their move towards abstraction in pair of joint exhibitions. They also founded the art movement Unit One together, to encourage abstraction in British Art. During WW2 Hepworth and Nicholson evacuated to St. Ives with their children. Hepworth lived in Trewyn Studios from 1949 until her death in 1975. Trewyn Studios became the Barbara Hepworth Museum and part of Tate in 1980.

The Hepworth consists of a cluster of 10 connected trapezoidal concrete blocks, each one containing a single naturally-lit gallery. On permanent display in the gallery is the Hepworth Family Gift which consists of 44 full size rare pieces and surviving explorations, interesting works made in plaster and aluminium which Hepworth created to help prepare practically for her bronze pieces. Throughout the gallery you can also see lithographs and screen prints by the artist. The collection shows the vast variety of ways in which Hepworth used her materials and developed her creative process.

We were also lucky enough to see Masterpieces by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, two exhibitions showing the artists' inspiration from and connection with Yorkshire. In this gallery we see over 30 pieces of work from Hepworth’s whole career: from her early carvings made in Wakefield, through to some of her most iconic stringed pieces created during the 1940s.

Moore’s section in the gallery shows a collection of his sculptures and drawings of coal miners from the 40s. Moore received an ex-serviceman grant to continue his education and in 1919 he started at Leeds College of Art, where he met Barbara Hepworth.

Our trip to the Hepworth coincided perfectly with 'Disobedient Bodies curated by JW Anderson. Sadly finished now, it was a brilliant exhibition which made the trip even more worthwhile. The exhibition saw one of the world's more inventive fashion designers, Jonathan Anderson, exploring fashion and design.
'I don’t believe in being provocative purely for the sake of it, but without some disobedience you’ll never arrive at anything new.'

The exhibition is described as 'a cocktail party, where individuals who do not necessarily know each other meet and interact' which I think is perfect. It's a mis-match of work which has been curated together brilliantly. The spaces were bordered by curtains throughout, the curtains made from old JW Anderson stock. It manages to soften the mixture of work and gives each section its own reveal.

The most photographed area of Disobedient Bodies is JW Anderson's 28 Jumpers (seen above). An interactive piece filling a large part of the gallery. It consists of 28 elongated jumpers hanging from the ceiling of the room, each can be tied together or wrapped around one another to create a different installation.

The space showed work from artists including Louise Bourgeois, Lunn Chadwich, Barbara Hepworth, Sarah Lucas, Henry Moore, Magali Reus, Giacometti and Dorothea Tanning and fashion pieces from designers such as Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo of Commes des Garcons and Issey Miyake. Overall a great exploration of work which Anderson collaborated with Tom Emerson and Stephanie Macdonald from 6a architects to bring this exhibition together. These pieces were paired and arranged in a commentary on the "ways in which each artwork, each piece of clothing can reimagine, subvert or 'disobey' the body" ( Abigail Radnor, It's Quite Petrifying: JW Anderson on his first exhibition, Guardian article 10/03/2017)

I thought that the mix of styles, art forms and mediums served to perfectly exhibit the point of this collection, in my opinion: that these fashion and design pieces work alongside fine art pieces in a gallery context as well they do in a fashion setting. The seamless curation drives the point home that fashion pieces can be elevated to art that can be enjoyed in the same way.

We had a great trip to the Hepworth and I look forward to heading back there in the future. In October the Hepworth will be exhibiting Alina Szapocznikow’s (1926-73) first UK retrospective.

I think the addition to Hepworth Wakefield has been a great investment to Yorkshire. It's in great company with Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Art Gallery. I think that the Yorkshire region's approach to exhibiting its rich artistic history and financing its artistic presence is something that the rest of the UK can definitely learn from.

I can't leave anywhere without a handful of postcards but this trip to the gallery shop was even better than I expected! I just couldn't resist this amazing Barbara Hepworth brooch by Alex Sickling. Alex has other artist brooches over on her website, including this lovely little Picasso which I have my eye on.

Copyright © 2017 Sarah Horn Design