I think it is about 4 years or so since the Hepworth Galley opened in Wakefield and I remember visiting it shortly after its opening. It is an austere looking building and if one was being a little cruel could say that it has “Soviet realism” overtones.
However the Gallery see things differently and in their PR blurb they say the following, “In designing The Hepworth Wakefield, David Chipperfield Architects responded imaginatively to the gallery’s waterfront setting. The building complements the scale and form of the existing industrial buildings and, like them, appears to rise out of the River Calder. The gallery’s location on the river’s edge also allows it to apply new forms of renewable energy by sourcing the majority of its heating and cooling from the river’s flow. The gallery’s façade has been constructed of pigmented concrete which was created in-situ. This gives the building a sculptural appearance, which echoes the shapes and forms in many of Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures.”
I parked the car and made my way across the river passing over the variety of barges moored up on the river with the rather odd “hanging man” still on guard, and appearing even more extravagantly decorated since my last visit.
The entrance to the gallery is wonderfully spacious and as I entered, one of the reception staff, a young man asked me if I had visited before and showed me on a leaflet what changes had taken place since I last visited. He also kindly explained the policy on taking photographs, only two exhibits were “off limits” because of copy wright issues with the artist (I wish more galleries were as accommodating as this).
After a quick cappuccino in the café (excellent Christmas cake!) I made my way upstairs and began my tour of the galleries taking in the permanent exhibition of Barbara Hepworth’s works, although I have to confess that I am not a big fan of her work and find some of it very bland.
What I did enjoy and found quite fascinating was a new exhibition by Enrico David, introducing recent works, plus a new series of sculptures specially commissioned for The Hepworth Wakefield. Featuring over 20 works created in the past two years, this is the artist’s first solo show at an institution in the UK since his exhibition at the ICA in 2007 and his Turner Prize nomination in 2009.
What exasperates me when I visit galleries like this is the pretentiousness and pomposity of the language used to describe artists and their works, and I quote “David’s interest in British and European modern sculpture has come to the fore in his work of the past two years, exploring affinities with the work of Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Alberto Giacometti among others, whilst at the same time retaining an idiosyncratic aesthetic language which remains purposefully varied and full of provocative ambiguity.”………could we have that last bit in English please?
Despite this, it is well worth visiting the Hepworth Gallery to see what is happening in the art world, the very knowledgeable and helpful staff, the excellent photography policy, very good café, splendid shop selling all kinds of stationary and souvenirs AND it is free to get in.
But please do remember to make a donation before you leave. We are very fortunate in West Yorkshire that we have the Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Bretton and The Hepworth in Wakefield, it would be a sad day if we lost either or both of them…………now there is a turn up for the book, an exiled Lancastrian pleading for support for art galleries in Yorkshire (I will never dare show my face in Leigh again).