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Our History

The Hepworth Wakefield opened in 2011 to house Wakefield’s art collection and provide a legacy for Barbara Hepworth in the town in which she was born.

The original Wakefield Art Gallery was established in 1934 and became one of the most forward-thinking galleries of its time, supporting artists including Hepworth and Henry Moore early in their careers. With gifts from local industrialists, the gallery built a collection of works by some of the most significant and avant-garde British artists of the 20th century. Supporting contemporary artists and developing the collection for future generations is something that The Hepworth Wakefield continues to be committed to today.

In 1996 Wakefield Council started to promote the benefits of investing in a new purpose-built art gallery, which would act as a catalyst for wider regeneration, attract tourism and inward investment and increase local pride.

The Hepworth Family Gift at The Hepworth Wakefield. Photo by Jenny Briggs.

The generous donation of The Hepworth Family Gift to Wakefield by Hepworth’s daughters Rachel Kidd and Sarah Bowness via the Art Fund was integral to the development of the new gallery. The 44 plaster and aluminium prototypes, together with the artist’s work bench and tools are on permanent display in two galleries dedicated to exploring Barbara Hepworth’s working practice.

In 2003 Wakefield Council launched an international RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) competition to find an architect to design the new art gallery for Wakefield. The competition led to the selection of David Chipperfield Architects.

Design development started in 2004 and construction began three years later after capital funding had been secured. The £35 million development of The Hepworth Wakefield opened in 2011 to international acclaim, reaching its initial annual target of 150,000 visitors in the first five weeks.

In 2013 The Hepworth Wakefield won the Clore Learning Award for its ambitions and innovative learning programme and in 2017 was named Art Fund Museum of the Year.

The Hepworth Wakefield was built by David Chipperfield Architects and opened in 2011

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