A gallery has been built there recently, designed by the architect David Chipperfield, of whose River and Rowing Museum in Henley and the Turner Contemporary in Margate we are fans, and we had been eager to see this place and its contents. Barbara Hepworth was born in Wakefield, and this gallery is not only named for her, but contains her family's large gift of plasters and prototypes and other working tools etc. within its collections.
Parking is on the other side of the river Calder, within a loop of which the gallery lies, thus providing us with an opportunity to enjoy a walk with much of interest including views of the gallery itself. To say that we were attracted, delighted, and astonished by what we saw was to put it mildly!
We wanted to see the collections of Hepworth work and her work tools, and the complementary Wakefield city collection of art and the temporary exhibition of post-war art (which added to our pile of luck by still being on past its advertised end-by date). I do love British work from the mid 20th century, and never tire of seeing examples. There are also works from the Arts Council collection, all of which I enjoyed, but especially Keith Vaughan's Labourers lighting a cigarette.
Progress through these well lit, and asymmetric rooms was enlightening, with the appropriately placed punctuations of large windows down to the floor framed through which we could see the various aspects of the river, the town, everyday life. It was an enveloping but not an isolating experience. This extraordinary art had come out of ordinary life, and the gallery itself seemed to inspire one to see the extraordinary aspects of the everyday.
Two temporary exhibitions provided further pleasures. One was the collection of drawings of surgeons and theatre staff which Barbara Hepworth did in 1948 just as the National Health Service was being formed in the UK (I was one of the last whose birth had to be paid for.)
Coincidentally, Hepworth's grandson Paul Bowness is Professor of Experimental Rheumatology at Oxford University, and in this site can be seen strolling round the display of drawings. I found the drawings theatrically staged: with the figures rather like groups of sculptures. I very much like them. The drawing was done on a gesso base, and so they are like a kind of scraffito, or a base relief. It was also so good to be able to see so many together, especially as so many of them are in private collections and not normally seen.
The other temporary exhibition within the gallery is the private collection of David Roberts. Again mostly sculpture, I was most delighted to see examples of the work of Thomas Houseago (whose work had so inspired me in Oxford last year as I wrote about here, and here),one of which is illustrated below, and also taken from this site.
Outside the building is another piece of longterm temporary work: a 3D installation drawing by James Pyman. Upper Mill has been drawn by him, and 'reconstructed' to sit on the river. It is an interesting piece: taking the solidity of a building and rendering it lifesize in the delicacy of a pencil drawing. But I have been frustrated in trying to find out how much of the actual mill still exists and what it looks like now.
Brains a-buzz we still had more to come - and the most challenging encounter of the day: our final concert at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. First would come the talk by Irvine Arditti about the challenge he also would face in playing the John Cage Freeman Etudes, and then the 90 minute or so experience itself. And an extraordinary experience it was. I do not think that I have ever listened so hard in my life before. My husband's comment at the end put my reaction into words: 'If someone had asked if I enjoyed it, the answer would be No - but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of listening to it.' I joked as we clapped enthusiastically at the end that perhaps he would give an encore, ... and he did! It was a short melodic piece entitled Whiskas. What a day! What a trip!