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Important new contemporary acquisitions go on display

We are delighted to announce the acquisition of Becoming Branch (2014) by British artist Helen Marten, purchased using a portion of the prize money awarded to the gallery upon winning Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2017.

Helen Marten has an important place in the gallery’s history, having won the inaugural Hepworth Prize for Sculpture in 2016 and going on to win the Turner Prize in the same year.

Marten’s work consists of dense accumulations of handcrafted objects made from a seemingly inexhaustible inventory of materials – wood, ceramic, metal, leather, plastic, fabric, glass and rubber to name just a few. Marten was awarded the 2016 prize for the originality of her sculptural language, which challenges the threshold between two and three dimensions. Becoming Branch is an important work from a large series of sculptures and screen prints Marten produced in 2013/14 for her solo exhibition at the Fridericianum in Kassel, Germany. In this period in Marten’s work, her sculptures often alluded to familiar, domestic objects – in this case a cot or cradle – though these form only a starting point for an unfolding series of object and material relationships.

Simon Wallis, Director of The Hepworth Wakefield, said:

“As a gallery that consistently engages with the legacy of Barbara Hepworth, we felt it important to use the money we were awarded by winning Art Fund Museum of the Year to acquire a work by a leading female contemporary artist, to develop our collection and redress the historical gender imbalance common to most public collections. Helen’s work was the obvious choice for us, and this particular piece is an excellent example of her art that will allow our diverse audiences to question our understanding of sculpture.”

Marten’s work, which is on display at the West Yorkshire gallery from today, forms part of a new exhibition, A Contemporary Collection. It celebrates the £35million worth of art added to Wakefield’s collection through generous philanthropic gifts from artists, collectors and other fundraising activity since The Hepworth Wakefield opened in 2011. Wakefield’s art collection was established in 1923 with an ambition to nurture an understanding of contemporary art, often supporting artists, including Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, early in their careers. The Hepworth Wakefield continues to ambitiously build the collection in a similar vein through encouraging philanthropic generosity.

The exhibition includes works by other artists shortlisted for The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture – Steven Claydon and Michael Dean – which have been acquired through an innovative funding partnership between the Contemporary Art Society, the Henry Moore Foundation and Cathy Wills. This partnership has also funded the acquisition of a work by Magali Reus who presented a solo exhibition at The Hepworth in 2015 and was shortlisted for The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture in 2018.

Also on display is a new painting by South African painter, Lisa Brice funded by an anonymous donor, Eva Rothschild’s Wandering Palm that entered the collection following the museum’s inaugural exhibition by the artist and Veronica Ryan’s Particles, a commission delivered in partnership with The Art House in Wakefield in 2017. Photographs from Martin Parr’s Rhubarb Triangle series documenting the local rhubarb farmers, and fashion photographer Jamie Hawkesworth’s Wakefield Kids series, were gifted to the collection following their commissions by The Hepworth Wakefield for major exhibitions and are now back on display.