The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture

Hepworth Sculpture Prize

An exhibition by the four artists shortlisted for the inaugural Hepworth Prize for Sculpture - Phyllida Barlow, Steven Claydon, Helen Martenand David Medalla – opens at The Hepworth Wakefield on 21 October 2016.

The show, which includes new and recent work, is the most ambitious ever mounted by the gallery. The winner of the £30,000 prize will be announced at an award dinner at The Hepworth Wakefield on 17 November 2016. 

Sculpture is the art form of the moment – and this new Prize aims to demystify contemporary sculpture. Visitors to the exhibition will be encouraged to experience, debate and judge the Prize for themselves. The shortlist is multi-generational and covers the widest range of work in the medium.

The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture recognises a British or UK-based artist of any age, at any stage in their career, who has made a significant contribution to the development of contemporary sculpture. The shortlist reflects the wide range of sculptural practice taking place in the UK today. 

The Prize was created to celebrate the gallery's 5th anniversary during 2016. Significantly, it is named after Barbara Hepworth, one of Britain's greatest sculptors and arguably its most celebrated female artist, who was born and brought up in Wakefield. The Hepworth Wakefield holds one of the most important collections of Barbara Hepworth’s work in the world.

Sophie Bowness, art historian and granddaughter of Barbara Hepworth, said: "The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture is a fitting legacy to Barbara Hepworth, one of Britain's greatest sculptors, whose career was enhanced through a variety of awards from early in her professional life."

The Hepworth Wakefield’s Director, Simon Wallis said: “Britain is home to a long line of great sculptors from Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Anthony Caro and beyond. We are living in an exceptionally rich and exciting time for experiencing sculpture in this country and yet there was no significant Prize to recognise this art form. We launched the UK’s first major art prize to celebrate sculpture in its broadest sense and to promote wider engagement with this art form. It’s an art form reflective of our time, our physical environment and that’s why sculpture remains our most significant and dominant form of artistic expression and why it deserves to be celebrated.”

The judging panel of five leading international commentators within the field of visual arts have been brought together. The panel comprises: Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev,Director of Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea and GAM – Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Torino; David Chipperfield: architect and designer of The Hepworth Wakefield; Sheikha Hoor al-Qasimi, President Sharjah Art Foundation; Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, President of The Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, collector and patron of the arts and Alastair Sooke, art critic and broadcaster.

Phyllida Barlow has made new work for the show and adapted existing sculptures constructed from simple everyday materials, with which her work has become synonymous. A monumental sculpture titled screestage dominates the gallery space, creating a heightened awareness among the visitor of their surroundings. Wall-mounted sculptures include the newly made untitled: blackcoils2016 and untitled: toletsigns2016 reconstructed from some existing works, an ongoing practice of the artist. Both works are constructed from throwaway or domestic items which make reference to structures encountered in urban environments.

Barlow cites among her important influences artists such as Germaine Richier or Barbara Hepworth, her sculptures however replace their solid volumes and carving with ragged, raw materials to create large-scale structures that often encroach upon the viewer’s space. When considering the process of making her art works, Barlow has said, ‘Maybe I don’t think enough about beauty in my work because I’m so curious about other qualities, abstract qualities of time, weight, balance, rhythm; collapse and fatigue versus the more upright dynamic notions.’

Steven Claydon describes“sound as sculpture” and approaches this medium through the senses - combining light, smell and sound with solid materials to produce artworks that are often not what they might seem on first encounter. The six  sculptures and site-specific interventions activate the space around them and engage with the architecture of the gallery, such as Re-de-extinction Table, 2016, where seemingly inanimate objects  create a low-level ambient sound.

A collector of cultural artefacts, Claydon repurposes objects and data into sculptures that are full of intentional contradictions. His work invites the viewer to become the excavator as objects from the past are re-conjured with contemporary materials and new technologies. Re-de-extinction Table, 2016 – presents a pair of antiquity heads recast in resin sat atop a table with a gold-plated copper surface embedded with impressions of old £10 bank notes. 

Oppositional forces of attraction and repulsion are also at play in Claydon’s work. Industrial yellow curtains are imbued with the scent of citronella, designed to repel mosquitos, a series of wall mounted lights used in Like Shooting Sparrows in the Dark 3 (deterrent lure), 2016 contain blue LEDlightbulbs similar to those used to attract squid in deep-sea fishing and Magnate (obelisk), 2016 features a large wall covered in rubberised magnetic sheeting holding pennies tight to the material surface.

Helen Marten presents seven recent worksthat fold familiar images and objects from our everyday surroundings into intricately crafted installations. Dense accumulations of handcrafted objects made from a huge variety of materials - wood, ceramic, metal, leather, plastic and fabrics - draw the viewer in and play with the relationship between two and three dimensions, making us question our understanding of what sculpture is or can be.

Four screenprints from the series Part offering, 2014 hang on the gallery walls, featuring painted cat motifs paired with a range of appendages that contain and are made from unexpected materials such as straw, leather, fired clay, shell, coffee beans, cherry stones, milk cartons and cigarettes. Unlike many of Marten’s works on show, whose details invites a closer inspection, the large-scale White Cotton is so platonic, or something,  2014, installation requires the viewer to step back, and only then does the line drawing of a shirt blowing in the breeze, transcribed into three-dimensions truly reveal itself.

David Medalla considers himself a ‘citizen of the world’.  His work over the last 70 years is inspired by places and people.  Informed by complex combinations of memories and evolving relationships, his work often reflects rhythms and systems found in the natural world.  Medalla says: “Art, for me, begins as a simple idea, like a seed that grows into a tree. The idea becomes 'full grown', sometimes, 'expanding' and taking on different manifestations, like trees that become a forest.”

His practice incorporates painting, participatory work, performance and kinetic sculpture, including the pioneering ‘auto-creative’ sculptures that he first made in the 1960s.  Medalla has made two new auto-creative sculptures for his presentation at The Hepworth Wakefield – a new version of his seminal work Cloud Canyons, 1964-2016, and Sand Machine, Bahagari, 1963-2016, a moving work comprising sand, shell, necklace and bamboo. These works are put in a constant state of movement and flux, giving, in the words of the artist, ‘tangible form to invisible forces’.

A new iteration of Medalla’s hugely popular and ongoing, participatory piece A Stitch in Time will also be presented.  Conceived in 1967 as a pair of simple handkerchiefs that the artist gave to two of his ex-lovers at Heathrow Airport to wish them happy travels, the series explores themes of time, circulation and chance encounters.  Spools of coloured thread dangle over an octagonal cloth and visitors are invited  to stitch in words, pictures or attach small, light-weight objects to the cloth.

The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture is supported by the following individuals:

- Linda Bennett
- David Liddiment
- David Roberts

Supporting Sponsor:


Regional media partner for the Hepworth Sculpture Prize:
The Yorkshire Post

Travel Partner:
Grand Central Rail

Image: Barbara Hepworth working on the prototype of the United Nations ’Single Form’, St Ives, Cornwall, 1963. Photograph: Studio St Ives © Bowness