New galleries seem to be launching on a monthly basis in the UK. This unfortunately is the tail end of an art boom which saw government and lottery funding pumped into the provinces for over a decade. It was by far the largest burst of public building activity seen since the 19th century. The Hepworth Wakefield is Yorkshire’s landmark gallery for the visual arts. Like the Turner Contemporary in Margate, the bunker-like building has been designed by the award-winning David Chipperfield Architects. It is set to be a place to explore art, architecture and your imagination.
The 1,600 square metres of light-filled gallery spaces, will house a collection of the British master Barbara Hepworth the Wakefield-born sculptor and will contains some wonderful examples of her work, including more than 40 donated by the artist’s family. Sophie Bowness, her granddaughte. Dame Barbara, who died in 1975, is one of the UK’s most celebrated artists. It will be the largest purpose-built exhibition space since the Hayward Gallery opened its doors 43 years ago. 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. Located in an outstanding setting on Wakefield’s historic waterfront, the gallery will be a vibrant social space with a café, shop, learning studios as well as an exciting events programme of workshops, family activities, talks and tours.
Wakefield Council began project development in 2003 with a RIBA international architecture competition that led to the selection of David Chipperfield as architect. Design development started in 2004 and construction began three years later, after capital funding had been secured from Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Yorkshire Forward, the European Union (ERDF) and the Homes and Communities Agency (formerly English Partnerships). The project entered a new phase in July 2008 with the appointment of Director Simon Wallis. Simon brings fifteen years’ experience of curating exhibitions in a number of the UK’s leading art galleries and museums including Tate Liverpool, The Institute of Contemporary Art, London, Kettle’s Yard (University of Cambridge) and as Director of Chisenhale Gallery, London.Construction of the gallery was completed in January 2010. The fit-out, landscaping and infrastructure works are currently being carried out, and the collections are now being installed. Total development costs, including the footbridge and all infrastructure designed to improve access are £35 million. The Hepworth Wakefield is at the heart of Wakefield’s regeneration, and has helped to secure significant private sector funding to restore the listed mills and warehouses in this important conservation area. The gallery will act as a catalyst for regeneration, attracting visitors and further investment. It will improve the perception, attraction and desirability of Wakefield locally and nationally as a place to live in, work or visit, and through this process raise aspirations among the city’s young people.
‘The Hepworth Wakefield will become a place of pilgrimage for all lovers of sculpture and now with the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton, Yorkshire will be a place of inspiration for all.’ Antony Gormley
The gallery is opening on 21 May 2011