It’s the museum everyone would dream of having on their doorstep

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Hepworth Wakefield

With those words, the winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017 was announced to be The Hepworth Wakefield. This price is the richest museum prize in the world and the Hepworth will get £100,000. All the other finalists will get £10,000 each.

Why did the Hepworth win?

According to Stephen Deuchar, the chairman of the judges, it was because, “the Hepworth Wakefield has been a powerful force of energy from the moment it opened in 2011, but it has just kept growing in reach and impact ever since.” He went on to say that it was also due to, “…a breathtaking sequence of special exhibitions, curated with determined originality by the talented curatorial team.’

the family by Barbara Hepworth

Hepworth’s The Family

In 2016 the Hepworth generated a 21% increase in visitors which, in part, must have been due to two impressive exhibitions – retrospectives of both Martin Parr and Stanley Spencer. It also awards The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture which helps to place it visibly amongst sculptures and the art world generally.

But as Deuchar suggested, one of the reasons the Hepworth won was because it doesn’t sit on its laurels. This year it is involved in creating a landscaped garden by leading garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith which will become one of the largest free public gardens in the country. Dovetailing in with the river which is at the back of the Hepworth will enable the Hepworth to become one of the places where people will come not just to see the sculpture but to sit and watch the life on the river.

back of Hepworth

The back of the Hepworth faces the river which will become a free public garden

Back in 2011, Just about Travel was there when it opened. A visit a year later confirmed my view that this is a international museum not just a local one. people do come from around the world to visit as a party of Americans coming in October proves.

The unlucky runners-up included the Lapworth Museum of Geology in Birmingham, Sir John Soane’s in London which is just about the complete opposite to the Hepworth in that where the Hepworth is light, airy and has space, the Sir John Soane’s is crammed to the gunnels with items Saone collected. The remaining finalists were Tate Modern in London which also had a very successful year and National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art in Newmarket.


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