Thursday, 17 May 2012

feature : The Hepworth Wakefield by David Chipperfield

photo thanks to: the gorgeous daily

It seems a tremendous irony that it took one of our greatest architects to bring our (arguably) greatest 20th century sculptor to the wider public’s notice.  But with the opening of The Hepworth Wakefield, David Chipperfield has allowed us to see many of Barbara Hepworth’s amazing prototypes in a befitting setting.

Great art deserves great spaces, but so many of today’s architects seem to have mislaid Louis Sullivan’s form follows function tenet, and thus artworks often get to be displayed in decidedly un-great spaces.  This is definitely not the case with The Hepworth. 

photo thanks to:

Chipperfield has created ten individual gallery spaces within trapezoidal blocks, all different, emphasising that “it’s important the geometry doesn’t dominate the space”, something Hepworth would have understood only too well.  She would also have understood the way he has used light, not trying to create something homogeneous, but allowing it to change from gallery to gallery.

The Hepworth works displayed are mainly models from which bronzes were made, and thus were worked by the artist’s hand, unlike the resultant casts.  Carving was all-important to Hepworth, thus stone and wood dominated her early career.  She direct carved, meaning that she did not first create a maquette, but carved straight into a block of wood or stone, arduous and often hazardous work, especially when expensive pieces of marble were involved.  As a woman she would have found the work especially demanding, yet she produced a prodigious number of sculptures, all displaying her great and unique sense of line and form.

Bringing these works back to Hepworth’s home town, in such a fantastic setting, has been a labour of love for all involved, none more so than Chipperfield, of whom I’m sure Hepworth would have thoroughly approved.  Wherever she lived, without exception, every room was white.   

by Richard Woollen, guest author

photo thanks to:


photo thanks to: Carrie Etter

photo thanks to: chrisjohnbeckett

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