Great Collections: The modern art collection of the Hepworth Wakefield

For modern art lovers and investors in the north of England, this weekend's opening of the Hepworth Wakefield is a momentous occasion.

Commissioned in 2004, prior to the government's arts funding cuts, the gallery forms a centrepiece of Wakefield's waterfront regeneration project.

Named after the Yorkshire town's favourite daughter, sculptor Barbara Hepworth, the gallery is the largest purpose-built exhibition space outside of London and is itself a work of art, having been designed by David Chipperfield.

The work of Barbara Hepworth, on display in her hometown of Wakefield

Central to the Hepworth is Wakefield's Collection, an assemblage of more than 6,000 works, mostly by modern British artists.

Many of these were collected by the now supplanted Wakefield Art Gallery, which engaged in a concerted effort to amass the finest contemporary pieces throughout the 20th century.

Works such as Reclining Figure (1936) by local artist Henry Moore and Hepworth's Mother and Child (1934) are standout features, but many other leading modern British artists are also well represented, including David Bomberg, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, Harold Gilman, Ben Nicholson, Patrick Heron, Lucie Rie and William Scott.

Visitors will be able to enjoy an exhibition devoted to donations from the Hepworth family of the artist's lithographs and screen prints as well as 44 plaster and aluminium prototypes used for her sculptures.

The Gott Collection will feature around 1,200 works of art assembled in the 19th century by the vicar of Leeds John Gott. Containing depictions of more than 200 Yorkshire villages, towns and cities in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is a remarkable record of life and artistry in the local area.

Loans from the collections of the Tate, the British Council and the Arts Council will complement the permanent displays, in addition to exhibitions of guest artists.

"This is an important investment in the future of Wakefield and I passionately believe it will help regeneration and the local economy," Peter Box, leader of Wakefield council, told the Guardian.

"It will be an inspiration to young people."

Designed to be a centre for many aspects of the arts, the Hepworth is set to feature a diverse schedule of film-screenings, concerts and talks.


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