Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Hepworth, A Review ...

The Hepworth Wakefield is "One of the finest contemporary art museums in Europe," according to The Independent, and the largest purpose-built gallery in the UK for over 40 years. It cost 35 million pounds and the building itself, designed by the acclaimed David Chipperfield Architects, is already a Design Award winner.

Named after the internationally acclaimed sculptor Barbara Hepworth, born in Wakefield in 1903, the gallery boasts the city's collection of her work and that of the other local sculptor Henry Moore, born just down the road in 1898, among other notable works and collections.

All well and good, I'm impressed, but is it REALLY worth a family visit? CAN children be entertained by modern contemporary sculpture?

With The Yorkshire Sculpture Park just down the road, there's probably not a child in Wakefield, my own included, who hasn't crawled under, through and on a priceless piece of art at some point with the words "DON'T CLIMB THAT, IT'S A HENRY MOORE" squawking in their ears. So already equipped with this thorough grounding in sculptural appreciation, the six year old, the ten year old and I embarked on an afternoon trip to the Hepworth.

The Hepworth is imposing. It hunches on the banks of the River Calder, a huge grey slab of a building (made up of ten individual sized trapezoidal blocks apparently) which was the subject of diverse comment *cough* in the city while it was being built. Though now it has been built I like it, which was unexpected, though I like it much more from inside than from outside.

Outside it is huge and grey and angular. Inside it is light, airy and spacious with huge windows in the exhibition spaces that give the sensation of floating above the river weir while looking out across the City. The windows are living artworks all by themselves so it's only fitting that the exhibition spaces should be alive with real, actual art.

They're not keen on you touching most of the art in the Hepworth so the five minutes I spent in the Indoor Picnic Area explaining to The Boy that he wasn't allowed to climb ON ANYTHING was probably time well spent. He didn't break anything at all. *Huge sigh of relief*

In fact, so enamoured of the whole experience was he, he insisted on asking one particular comely gallery assistant what a particular piece was about and I swear she blushed  Advanced for his age in some ways he may be, but he thoroughly enjoyed the gallery as an adventure .. he liked the shapes and the spaces and the holes, the knobbly bits, the strings, the lights at the ends of a tunnel and the gloves he got to wear to rub a small Henry Moore (yes, really). And he particularly like the chocolate muffins (with a gooey bit in the middle) in the Hepworth cafe.

The ten year old too liked the gallery but in a less chaotic, more cerebral way. Some things made her stand and think, some made her ask questions, or more questions than usual which is, um, loads. All caught her interest, but she like me, loved the windows. And she, like the boy, loved the playground outside. And it's not just any old playground I'll have you know, it's a "bespoke design" playground.

So, we looked around the gallery. We went outside and had a play in the bespoke playground. We had another look around the gallery, another little play in the playground, a bit of a muffin and another look around the gallery and then it was time to go, but still The Boy wanted one last look around the gallery, the Girl one last go on the zipwire.

Of course, we went home and promised to come again another day ("No, not tomorrow, darling" *sigh*) and we will. It was fun. It was also free.

For more information on The Hepworth, see

Disclaimer; This review has not been solicited or sponsored, all opinions are my own.

1 comment :

  1. What a fancy pants playground! Great photos too :)


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