Inside Heide’s New Exhibition, Celebrating Prolific Sculptor Barbara Hepworth

British artist Barbara Hepworth was a leading figure of modernist sculpture during the 20th century, best known for her innovative works with ‘piercings’ in their abstract forms. But her pioneering influence is often understated and misattributed – as is the case with many female artists of the past.

That’s exactly why Heide Museum of Modern Art is hosting the first major exhibition of her work in Australia. Barbara Hepworth: In Equilibrium brings together more than 40 works under one roof, with exhibition design by award-winning architects, Studio Bright.

See a first look below, as the museum’s team gives us a behind the scenes look at this exciting showcase!

Christina Karras
Supported By Heide Museum Of Modern Art

A first look inside Heide Museum of Modern Art’s latest exhibition, Barbara Hepworth: In Equilibrium. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

 Two Figures (Menhirs) by Barbara Hepworth. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Barbara Hepworth was one of the first female sculptors to gain international recognition. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Large scale works are enhanced by the views of Heide’s iconic gardens. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

‘The layout sets up a contrast between the two main gallery spaces, one of which is a relatively dense field of smaller and earlier works in stone and wood, and the other a more reductive display of larger bronzes,’ head curator Kendrah Morgan explains. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

There’s more than 40 works on loan from the collections of Tate Britain, Hepworth Wakefield and the British Council, as well as prominent Australian and New Zealand public collections. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Earthy tones help connect Heide’s inside galleries to the surrounding landscape, and the themes in Barbara’s pieces. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The showcase charts the artist’s career with a look back at her pioneering sculptural works. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Heide enlisted award-winning Melbourne architects, Studio Bright, for the exhibition design. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

See Barbara Hepworth: In Equilibrium on now until March 13! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Christina Karras
10th of November 2022

Heide Museum of Modern Art has a reputation for celebrating trailblazers, which makes them the perfect fit to host a survey exhibition of Barbara Hepworth – the first female sculptor to achieve international recognition.

The British artist created striking sculptures in stone, wood, bronze and paintings from the early 1920s until her death in 1975. Her abstract work is renowned across the UK and Europe, but Heide is hopeful Barbara Hepworth: In Equilibrium will finally make her a household name in Australia.

‘Many Australians aren’t aware of her achievements and innovations,’ head curator Kendrah Morgan explains. ‘For example, her “piercing” of the form was an invention often mistakenly attributed to her associate Henry Moore, and it had an enduring impact on the development of new sculptural vocabularies.’

‘With the currency of the ‘Know My Name’ campaign and increased recognition for the contributions of women artists, it seemed timely to bring her work to Australia, as she was an important influence on our own, local developments in sculpture,’ artistic director Lesley Harding adds.

The museum was also drawn to her feminist views, as she was a vocal advocate for women in the arts. ‘Despite having four children, including triplets, she made time for her art practice and believed that family demands should not be a barrier to aspirations and careers for women,’ Lesley reveals.

The landmark exhibition has been four years in the making. In addition to working with Barbara’s granddaughter Sophie Bowness, the curators travelled to the artist’s hometown of St Ives to experience the ‘rugged coastal landscape and the ancient Neolithic sites in West Cornwall’ that were an important source of inspiration in her work.

This connection to the landscape helped inform the exhibition’s look and feel, too. Heide enlisted Melbourne architects Studio Bright for the design, which plays into the colours, textures and themes of the collection, while a projection room playing a ‘surrealist-inflected film from 1953’, literally places the works within the Cornish landscape!

There’s more than 40 works to explore across several rooms that chart Barbara’s career, from her early figurative marble carvings through to large-scale abstract forms ‘grounded in the natural world and human relationships’.

‘They are full of meaning and associations,’ Kendrah says of Barbara’s work. ‘We hope that visitors can identify with the symbolism and the messages contained within her works, and appreciate the full extent of her humanist vision.’

Book your tickets to see Barbara Hepworth: In Equilibrium at Heide Museum of Modern Art here. On now until March 13, 2023. 

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