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May 2011 opening for Wakefield's Hepworth art gallery
Hepworth Wakefield
The Hepworth Wakefield is already a striking landmark on the city's waterfront

Art lovers in West Yorkshire are celebrating the announcement that a major new gallery will finally open in Wakefield in spring 2011.

It has been announced that the Hepworth gallery, dedicated to the life and work of Wakefield sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth, will open on 21 May.

Dame Barbara, who died in 1975, is one of the UK's most celebrated artists.

The Hepworth Wakefield, built in the heart of her home city, will house a unique collection of her work.

Born in Wakefield in 1903, Barbara Hepworth went on to become one of the most renowned sculptors of the 20th century.

Over 40 of her works are to go on show at the Hepworth Wakefield, many of which have never been seen in public before.

Important artist

Simon Wallis and David Liddiment
Simon Wallis and David Liddiment are both avid supporters of the Hepworth

Ahead of the official announcement of its opening date, gallery director Simon Wallis told BBC Radio Leeds that the Hepworth Wakefield would be a fitting memorial to the artist's life and works.

"She is one of the most important 20th century artists bar none," he said.

"The fascinating thing about her is the level of ambition her work embodies.

"She came from a background in Wakefield and went on to develop a hugely significant international career."

Situated in the heart of Wakefield, the Hepworth has been many years in the planning.

But the gallery will finally open its doors on 21 May 2011 to reveal her work in brand new surroundings and, it is hoped, to a whole new audience.

David Liddiment, chair of the Hepworth Trust, said it was entirely appropriate that the gallery was opening in Barbara Hepworth's home city.

"She was born in this city. She went to the local girls' school. The vision for her work came out of this area of West Yorkshire," he said.

"If you are a Yorkshire person then this is a celebration of someone you should feel very proud about.

"This new gallery will welcome everybody and it will show the work of one of the most famous daughters of the city."

Designed by architect David Chipperfield, the Hepworth Wakefield contains 10 gallery spaces which makes it one of the UK's largest purpose-built galleries outside London.

David Liddiment said he hoped the gallery would become "a centre of excellence", attracting visitors not just from Wakefield and West Yorkshire but from much further afield.

Welcoming space

Family of Man by Barbara Hepworth
The works of Barbara Hepworth have become famous across the world

He said it would also carry out a lot of work in the community in an effort to get people of all generations interested in Dame Barbara Hepworth and, indeed, in art of all kinds.

"People will go on a journey through these galleries because they are so beautifully designed and because being in this space is so welcoming," he said.

"Their eyes will be opened and I am confident that if families make the effort to come to visit this gallery they will be in for a fantastic few hours.

"I believe this is going to be one of the UK's great galleries."

At least 150,000 visitors are forecast to visit the Hepworth Wakefield in its first year after opening in May 2011.

They will not only get to see works by Dame Barbara Hepworth, but also other works from Wakefield's art collection.

Many of these works of art had previously been kept in storage due to lack of space at the city's former tiny gallery on Wentworth Terrace.

Simon Wallis said the new gallery would be "absolutely grounded" in the city.

"You can have national and international ambitions - and we do - but they have to be built on really, really strong relations and connections to the local community," he said.

"That is an enormous part of what this institution is all about."

We want to signal to everybody in West Yorkshire and beyond to come and visit us
David Liddiment, Hepworth Trust

David Liddiment said expectations surrounding the Hepworth Wakefield were already high.

"We want to make a fanfare. We think this is worth celebrating," he said.

"We want to signal to everybody in West Yorkshire and beyond to come and visit us.

"This is an extraordinary venture."

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