Barbara Hepworth and the Development of British Modernism
Thursday, 23 January 2014

Barbara Hepworth and the Development of British Modernism

Hepworth Wakefield came to London and showed that it is possible to go to an art fair and be inspired

Written by Sam Taylor
Sam-Taylor-NEW-176Art fairs can be a trial even for the most committed groupie. The works jostle for position in overheated exhibition halls and the close proximity of the stands means that only the real gems (or the crowd-pulling headliners) shine out. In a bid to change this repetitive cycle, the organisers of this year’s London Art Fair announced that they would be giving over a ‘pavilion’ to a show of works (not for sale) by an important artist.

This year, the first, was a collaboration with the The Hepworth Wakefield museum, curated by its head of collections and exhibitions, Frances Guy. Cleverly, she broadened the theme to include Hepworth’s influence and connection with the British Modernist movement. Some notable galleries were also invited to exhibit in the pavilion, in particular, Jonathan Clark, who has been the leading dealer in Modern British art for several decades.

For those of us who live in the southeast, it was a rare chance to see some of Barbara Hepworth’s work outside its usual home. Although Hepworth is inextricably linked to St Ives, where she lived (and died) at Trewyn Studio, she was actually born in Wakefield, where her father was an alderman. Seeing up close the smallscale maquette for the six-metre tall Winged Figure sculpture that sits on the side of John Lewis on Oxford Street was worth the price of admission alone and has convinced me that I need to make the trip north to see the full collection of working models her family donated to the museum.

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And even though a trip to Cornwall rarely needs an excuse, it also fired a determination to go back this summer and visit her studio and garden and the exquisite bronze sculptures there, sited exactly where she wanted them, in the garden that she herself designed and laid out. So what might have appeared to be a marketing ploy by this year’s organisers was actually one of those rare things in the art world – a brilliant idea.

Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire: 01924-247360, www.hepworthwakefield.org
Trewyn Studio, St Ives: 01736-796226, www.tate.org.uk

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