The Hepworth, Wakefield

Last week I visited The Hepworth Wakefield as part of my Art Gallery and Museum Studies course. As I have iterated before, I am not very fond of contemporary art, it just does not sink in, most of the time I do not see the point; however (and this is a big however) I absolutely loved the Hepworth. I studied Barbara Hepworth briefly at A-level and remember being faintly fond of her work. I liked that the simplicity and curving lines of her pieces are very reminiscent of natural rock formations, albeit rock formations from a strange and alien planet.

Having only opened in 2011, The Hepworth Wakefield is still very much a new museum and this is reflected in the beautifully modern architecture and flowing, open spaces of the galleries. Upon entering the wide open space of gallery one, I was instantly pulled in by a range of teapots fanned across the floor. It turned out that they were part of an installation piece that included the 3D printer that was printing the teapots live in the gallery. Accompanied by very knowledgeable staff that were keen to share their interest in the piece, we were able to touch the pots and observe the 3D printing at close-quarters.

The Barbara Hepworth collection itself was quite small for a museum that is dedicated to the artist. The curators have done a great job with what little pieces they had, creating a lovely room in homage to her life (including her tools, drawings and photographs) and a large open space reminiscent of her workshop, dotted here and there with various sculptures and plasters. The architecture of the building does a wonderful job to highlight the simple beauty of her work, with high ceilings, crisp white walls and huge windows that flood the galleries with natural light.

One highlight of the Hepworth that I strangely enjoyed was the current exhibition of Linda Benglis’ work. I had never come across this artist before but I found her work to be very intriguing. Most of it, I just did not understand (the usual distaste in contemporary works came back a few times), but at the same time I thought it to be very aesthetically pleasing and really had to stop myself from reaching out and touching quite a lot of her work. The exhibition was large, larger than expected, and covered a number of rooms. This allowed the visitor to see a range of works from different genres, different media and different stages in the artist’s life. It easily explored her travels around the world and demonstrated how the changes in culture had influenced a change in her working practice.

The Hepworth Wakefield may be a strange place to build a museum such as this (even though it is the artist’s home town) and I am slightly disappointed that because of the tricky travel situations, I probably wont be able to get back to the Hepworth any time soon but otherwise it is a lovely little gallery and a definite testament to the life of Barbara Hepworth.

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