The Hepworth Wakefield

Price £13

The Hepworth Wakefield is a major art museum that has a strong focus on modern and contemporary art.

It is a large modern gallery that was opened in 2011, although its roots go back to the original Wakefield Art Gallery that was founded in 1923.

The gallery is named after the sculptor, Barbara Hepworth, who was born and raised in Wakefield.

Looking across the River Calder to The Hepworth art gallery. (Photo: DS Pugh [CC BY-SA 2.0])
Looking across the River Calder to The Hepworth art gallery. (Photo: DS Pugh [CC BY-SA 2.0])

What to see at The Hepworth Wakefield

The gallery displays an art collection that spans from the 16th century to the present day, although the focus is on contemporary and modern art. It includes works by Anthony Caro, Jacob Epstein, Ivon Hitchens, David Hockney, LS Lowry, Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson, Graham Sutherland and, of course, Barbara Hepworth.

Highlights of the collection include works by local West Yorkshire artists Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore including Hepworth’s Mother and Child (1934) and Moore’s Reclining Figure (1936). It also features 44 plaster and aluminium working models donated by Barbara Hepworth’s family.

Around two-thirds of the art on display is from The Hepworth’s own collection and this is supplemented by a programme of temporary exhibitions.

The purpose-built gallery is a modern brutalist-style building that has polarised local opinion. The design allows the galleries to be lit by natural light and the building is an imposing sight when viewed from across the River Calder; however, some people feel that the modern building is not reflective of the local area.

Temporary exhibitions at The Hepworth Wakefield

The Hepworth Wakefield hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions. Current and planned exhibitions include:

Kim Lim: Space, Rhythm & Light
This exhibition (until 2 June 2024) showcases four decades of sculpture by British-Singaporean artist Kim Lim. Visitors can explore the evolution of her artistic language, featuring sculptures that range from the early stages of her career to later, more experimental pieces. The exhibition provides an opportunity to reflect on Lim’s contribution to the world of contemporary sculpture, presenting a retrospective view of her artistic journey.

Andrew Cranston: What made you stop here?
This exhibition (until 2 June 2024) showcases Cranston’s diverse artistic expressions, spanning paintings, drawings and prints. With a focus on his recent pieces, the display offers an overview of Cranston’s artistic evolution and the themes that permeate his work.

Sylvia Snowden: Painting Humanity
Painting Humanity (until 3 November 2024) is the first public exhibition in Europe featuring the work of African-American painter Sylvia Snowden. Born in 1942 in North Carolina and shaped by her upbringing in Louisiana and Washington DC, Snowden’s career spans six decades. The exhibition presents a selection of her powerful figurative paintings, capturing the psychological essence of her subjects with expressive distortions. The showcase includes large early works and more recent pieces, highlighting her use of oil paint, pastels, acrylic and collage. Snowden’s art reflects her deep engagement with Black American political history and the civil rights struggle.

Still Lives
Featuring over 70 works by more than 50 artists across two galleries, the Still Lives exhibition (until January 2025) explores the enduring nature of the still life genre throughout various art epochs, such as post-impressionism, British modernism, surrealism and contemporary art. It reflects on the persistent inspiration artists draw from everyday objects, encompassing a range of artistic media, including sculpture, photography, ceramics, painting and works on paper.

A Living Collection
Since 1923, The Hepworth Wakefield’s art collection has aimed to foster an understanding of contemporary art and its relevance to modern life. The gallery continues this mission by adding new works to the collection, addressing contemporary issues, correcting historical imbalances and enriching narratives explored by artists in evolving contexts. Artists featured in A Living Collection (until February 2025) include Jadé Fadojutimi, Jake Grewal, Lewis Hammond, Bronwyn Katz, James Oughtibridge, Dan Perfect, Fiona Rae and Caragh Thuring, with works exhibited alongside sculptures by Barbara Hepworth.

Ronald Moody: Sculpting Life
This exhibition (22 June–3 November 2024) is the first comprehensive showcase of Jamaican-born sculptor Ronald Moody’s work. Guest curated by Moody specialist Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski and The Hepworth Wakefield’s senior curator, Eleanor Clayton, the exhibition features over 50 of Moody’s works, spanning large-scale figurative sculptures made in wood in the 1930s to post-war experimentation with concrete and resin casting. The showcase places Moody within the context of his contemporaries, including Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, and explores his contributions to British and international art history. The exhibition will also delve into Moody’s broader creative endeavours, such as poetry and writing, offering a comprehensive perspective on his artistic legacy.

Igshaan Adams
South African artist Igshaan Adams explores weaving, sculpture and installation in his upcoming solo exhibition (22 June–3 November 2024). Presenting a new series, Adams integrates large-scale tapestries and ‘cloud installations’ – wire and bead sculptures resembling erupting dust clouds. Collaborating with the Garage Dance Ensemble in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, dancers interact with a canvas covered in wet paint and the resulting abstract paintings serve as a record of dancers’ psyches, movements and personal narratives, adorned with locally sourced materials like stones and beads.

Louise Giovanelli
Louise Giovanelli is crafting a new body of work for this solo exhibition (23 November 2024–27 April 2025). Manchester-based artist Louise Giovanelli, known for large-scale paintings capturing ephemeral moments with vivid colour and textured craftsmanship, explores the interplay between representation, materiality, figuration and abstraction. Drawing inspiration from staged photographs, film stills, classical sculpture and architectural elements, her works often feature challenging subjects like fabrics and locks of hair. With captivating, luminescent paintings, Giovanelli creates an ethereal and joyful experience referencing both popular culture and Renaissance art.

Forbidden Territories: 100 Years of Surreal Landscapes
The Forbidden Territories exhibition (23 November 2024–27 April 2025) commemorates 100 years of Surrealism, tracing its evolution since André Breton’s 1924 manifesto. The exhibition explores Surrealism’s imaginative landscapes, transforming them into metaphors for the unconscious and platforms for expressing political, gender and societal concerns. Featuring artists like Dalí, Man Ray, Lee Miller and contemporary contributors such as Helen Marten, the exhibition offers thematic groupings chronicling 100 years of Surrealism.

Visiting The Hepworth Wakefield

The Hepworth Wakefield is located south of the city centre on the banks of the River Calder. It is around a 15-minute walk from the heart of the city centre, although the Chantry Chapel and Wakefield Kirkgate station are only a five-minute walk away.

Visitor facilities on the ground floor include a gift shop and a cafe bar that offers lovely views of the river.

If you have an interest in modern art, you may also want to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park around a half-hour outside the city and the Henry Moore Insitute in Leeds. Farther afield, Barbara Hepworth fans may also like to visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives in Cornwall, which is run as an extension of the Tate St Ives.

Amenities
  • Wheelchair access
  • Cafe/restaurant
  • Bar
  • Gift shop

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