The Hepworth Wakefield opens with a weekend of celebrations

PUBLISHED: 17:44 27 June 2011 | UPDATED: 12:03 28 February 2013

The Hepworth Wakefield opens with a weekend of celebrations

The Hepworth Wakefield opens with a weekend of celebrations

We celebrate the opening of The Hepworth Wakefield - the largest exhibition space outside London Photographs by Joan Russell

More than 8,000 people flocked to the opening of Yorkshires latest cultural attraction, marking the dawning of a new era for Wakefield.

Already christened one of the finest contemporary art museums in Europe by The Independent, The Hepworth has 1,600 square metres of light-filled galleries.

Six dramatic spaces are dedicated to Wakefields collection of modern British art - a hidden gem for more than 100 years featuring some of the most significant homegrown artists of the 20th century.

Central to the museums permanent collection is - perhaps not surprisingly - the work of Barbara Hepworth in the form of 44 full-size working models (surviving prototypes in plaster and aluminium made in preparation for works in bronze), drawings, lithographs and screen prints.

But The Hepworth has helped to bring more than art to the town; it has also helped to secure significant private sector funding to restore listed mills and warehouses in the surrounding conservation area.

Among the regeneration projects kickstarted by the gallery are Waterfront Wakefield, a 100 million scheme to transform the River Calder conservation area into a residential, leisure and work community; Trinity Walk, a city centre retail development comprising a new market hall, shopping centre and restaurants; and Wakefield Merchant Gate, a 140 million business and residential quarter incorporating office blocks, 350 homes, shops, restaurants, public squares, a hotel and a new railway station.

All will improve the perception, attraction and desirability of Wakefield locally and nationally, and all will add to the growing sense of pride felt by residents. And whats good for Wakefield, it seems, is good for Yorkshire as a whole.

The Hepworth Wakefield will become a place of pilgrimage for all lovers of sculpture, said sculptor Antony Gormley. With the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton, Yorkshire will be a place of inspiration for all.

Eva Rothschild exhibition

The first major exhibition at the newly opened Hepworth is Eva Rothschild: Hot Touch, which runs until October 9th.

The new sculptures, which lean against walls, are suspended in mid-air or balance precariously, are made from a range of materials including fabric, leather and wood, bringing together the handmade and the industrially produced.

To coincide with the exhibition, Yorkshire Sculpture Park is showing Rothschild's work Someone & Someone.

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