The Hepworth Wakefield Garden
Barbara Hepworth’s first public commissions were for the 1951 Festival of Britain, for which she created two large-scale sculptures - Turning Forms (1950-51) and Contrapuntal Forms (1950-51). This summer, as part of its major exhibition Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life, The Hepworth Wakefield will reunite the sculptures for the first time in 70 years, installing them in The Hepworth Wakefield Garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith.
Ten foot in height, Contrapuntal Forms was the largest sculpture Hepworth had attempted at the time and marked the first time that she took on permanent assistants in order to carry out the commission. Carved from two monumental blocks of Irish blue limestone, the sculpture shows two separate abstract figures ‘blended into one carved and rhythmic form’ (Barbara Hepworth, 1952).
At the Festival, Contrapuntal Forms was sited near the Dome of Discovery and Skylon on London’s South Bank. When the Festival closed, the Arts Council presented the sculpture to Harlow New Town in Essex. In common with many of the New Towns, Harlow acquired and commissioned works of contemporary sculpture for its civic spaces. Contrapuntal Forms was transferred to the Glebelands housing estate, where it has remained ever since.
A highly innovative work made of white-painted concrete on a steel armature, Turning Forms was a motor-driven kinetic sculpture which revolved on a rotating plate every two minutes. Recalling earlier Constructivist kinetic sculptures, the sculpture visually embodied the Festival’s celebration of science, technology and industrial design.
Turning Forms was commissioned for the Thameside Restaurant, which was designed by the architect Jane Drew and located on the South Bank. After the Festival, the sculpture was moved St Julian’s School in St Alban’s (now Marlborough Science Academy), but it has never since revolved as it was originally intended to. In October 2020 a major programme of conservation began on the sculpture and it will be displayed for the first time since this work was completed at The Hepworth Wakefield.