The Hepworth Gallery, the Jewel in Wakefields Crown

It may seem an unlikely location for one of the country’s newest and most impressive art galleries but the northern town of Wakefield is fast gaining a reputation for high quality art.

Never mind about the fact that for years now the area has played host to the vast open air Yorkshire Sculpture Park which since 1997 has been the home of Henry Moore’s ‘Draped Seated Woman’ a statue which formerly stood near to the Ewhurst Tower in Stepney’s Gifford Estate. Tower Hamlets Council made the news recently with their plans to sell the statue in order to raise cash, seemingly placing not much value on the cultural significance of public art.

The Hepworth Gallery in black and white

The Hepworth Gallery in black and white

Then in 2011 the Hepworth Gallery opened in the city, overlooking the River Calder and nestling amongst old warehouses in what was once a thriving hive of industrial activity. The building itself is a bold statement, designed by renowned architect David Chipperfield, it’s straight grey lines have been described as brutalist but I’m not so sure. Certainly it contrasts with an area which for years has been neglected, it’s lines and grey blocks to me are a statement of intent, of regeneration.

Barbara Hepworth, the artist from whom the gallery takes it’s name was born and educated in the city, attending Wakefield Girls High School and then studying at the Leeds School of Art. She travelled the World prior to basing herself in London and then later in St. Ives. Alongside Henry Moore, a Yorkshireman from the nearby town of Castleford who she met in Leeds, Wakefield and Yorkshire found itself at the heart of contemporary sculpture.

The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield

The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield

The Gallery is set in manicured grounds accessed via a footbridge over the Calder, it boasts a spacious interior over two floors with giant windows letting in as much natural light as possible. Those windows provide dominant views over the city and the river. Alongside works from Wakefield’s own collection and regular exhibitions from other contemporary artists, it obviously boasts a fine collection from Hepworth gifted from the Hepworth Estate.

That gift includes as it’s centerpiece a set of 44 full size working models in plaster and aluminium from which the artist would prepare prior to creating her works in bronze. It also includes drawings, lithographs, screenprints and tools which give a unique insight into the working methods of a woman who would become one of the World’s most respected sculptors.

As an exhibition space it is impressive and certainly puts Wakefield on the map perhaps confirming it’s place as one of the centers of sculpture in the UK.

The Hepworth Gallery was visited on Sunday 5 October 2014. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday between the hours of 10am and 5pm and closed on Mondays with the exception of school and bank holidays. For more information click here.

The Hepworth Gallery in Pictures

The Hepworth Gallery in Silhouette

The Hepworth Gallery in Silhouette

Sculptures from Barbara Hepworth outside the gallery

Sculptures from Barbara Hepworth outside the gallery

WP_20141005_15_56_03_Pro (2)

The Hepworth Gallery from the road

The Hepworth Gallery from the road

Quote from Barbara Hepworth in the gallery

Quote from Barbara Hepworth in the gallery

Henry Moore Reclining Figure in the Gallery

Henry Moore Reclining Figure in the Gallery

Giant Windows in the gallery looking out onto the River Calder

Giant Windows in the gallery looking out onto the River Calder

Exhibition from Folkert De Jong a temporary exhibition at the Hepworth Gallery

Exhibition from Folkert De Jong a temporary exhibition at the Hepworth Gallery

Sculpture by the giant windows in the Hepworth

Sculpture by the giant windows in the Hepworth

WP_20141005_14_55_27_Pro

'Narcissistic Envelope' Exhibition from Toby Ziegler in 'The Calder' exhibition space

‘Narcissistic Envelope’ Exhibition from Toby Ziegler in ‘The Calder’ exhibition space

A child plays outside the Hepworth

A child plays outside the Hepworth

Warehouses on the River Calder next to the Hepworth Gallery

Warehouses on the River Calder next to the Hepworth Gallery

Hepworth Gallery seen through the trees

Hepworth Gallery seen through the trees