Yorkshire is a bit of a cultural desert (if you like contemporary visual arts). Of course there are artist-led spaces and smaller projects which are great and Yorkshire Sculpture Park (which is quite niche in terms of programming), but to see big contemporary shows I find myself hopping on the train to Liverpool or Newcastle – or down to London.
So I was delighted to hear that we will soon be getting the 3rd largest contemporary and modern art gallery outside London – the Hepworth Wakefield. And, even better, Barbara Hepworth is one of my all time favourite artists – so the fact that this gallery will be approximately 1/3 historic/modern, 1/3 Barbara Hepworth, and 1/3 contemporary made me very happy indeed.
So I was really, really delighted to have the opportunity to work with the new gallery earlier this year on developing their business plan – along with my associates Holly Tebbutt (fellow consultant) and Tom Wilcox (Executive Director of Whitechapel Art Gallery and part-time consultant). We were asked to update the original plan which had been developed for the capital fundraising phase to reflect the level of resources required to deliver the gallery’s vision.
What really impressed me about the gallery – apart from its fantastic building designed by David Chipperfield – is the connection it has to its local area. It’s designed to be a landmark building, and to attract international and national visitors to the international solo shows and to see the Hepworth displays in her home town (watch out St Ives – we’re going to claim her back for Yorkshire!). But it’s equally about engaging with local people and celebrating the rich artistic heritage of a city that gave us Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth – and which had one of the leading City Art Galleries since the 1940s and 1950s. The education space is well-appointed and has a prime position at the entrance of the gallery (as opposed to being stuck on round the back as an after-thought).
The building is virtually complete (or may be so by now – it’s a couple of months since I visited the site) and the gallery is set to open in Spring 2011. So watch this space!