After quite a few months of build up, the Hepworth Wakefield gallery opened today.

The £35 million art gallery is one of the largest purpose built galleries to open in the UK (since 1968 by some estimates). The David Chipperfield designed building, situated almost in the River Calder has resulted in mixed feelings from local residents as from the outside is appears little more than an austere set of concrete cuboids. However, love or hate the outside, the inside is as beautiful as the artwork it contains. The huge galleries (which are rumoured to not contain a single right-angle between the walls) are great spaces full of natural light which spills in from large picture windows that look out onto the weir and river below.

The gallery contains a permanent collection of pieces by Barbara Hepworth, who was born in Wakefield, including a unique collection of plasters donated by the Hepworth family. These include prototypes for famous pieces such as the Winged Figure that adorns John Lewis’s in Oxford Street, London. Additional displays show Barbara Hepworth’s process from initial sketch through to finished design.

As well as the permanent collection there are special exhibitions and the first of these is a collection of sculptures and photos by Eva Rothschild entitled “Hot Touch”. Alongside are several paintings of Yorkshire including, for the opening, Tuner’s watercolour of the small Chantry Chapel which sits just across the road from the gallery.

I’m a little disappointed that you are not allowed to take photos inside. I can understand this for the temporary exhibitions where the artist may want to retain copyright but for the permanent Barbara Hepworth sculptures I had hoped photography would be allowed (no flash or tripods of course). I’m hoping to push to the administration team at the gallery to reconsider this!

With the Yorkshire Sculpture Park just down the road in West Bretton and the Henry Moore Institute (another local artist) in Leeds the area is rapidly becoming a destination for lovers of sculpture and a world class gallery such as the Hepworth only adds to that. Closed on Mondays but open the rest of the week I’d strongly recommend a visit and you can check the Hepworth website for details on how to get there and see if there are any special events planned.