Contemporary art Exhibitions United Kingdom

Nude men, brain matter and a jet engine inaugurate UK contemporary art space

“Youth” series by Roger Hiorns opens Hepworth Wakefield's new gallery in former textile mill

Roger Hiorns, Untitled, 2011. Image courtesy the artist and Corvi-Mora, London

A major regional UK art gallery, Hepworth Wakefield in West Yorkshire, is expanding in spite of the recession, with the launch today of a new 600 sq. m contemporary art space housed in a former 19th-century textile mill.

The new rough-hewn venue, which complements the ten gallery spaces in the nearby main building, is called The Calder after the river that runs alongside.

"The work we plan to show in The Calder will be much more experimental. We do not want to always go for the easiest options," says Simon Wallis, the director of the Hepworth Wakefield.

The Birmingham-born artist Roger Hiorns presents his "Youth" series in the provocative launch exhibition in which a series of males, aged 18 to 25, undress in front of visitors, fold away their clothes, position themselves on various found objects ranging from steel tables to car engines (until 3 November), and watch a burning flame until it flickers out.

"The [nude] human being is simply present next to an object. There is no performance," Hiorns says, although some of the materials used may raise eyebrows. A bench (Untitled, 2013) is partly coated in "brain matter": Hiorns says that the substance comes from a bovine calf the brain of which "contained perception, memory, and is part of this world".

A series of containers are filled with pulverised dust ground from a church altar which was uncovered in a reclamation yard in the south of England (Untitled, 2013). A jet engine and anti-depressants make up another work (Untitled, 2013). 

Participant Robert Hardaker, a 23-year-old performance artist, was chosen by Hiorns after a rigorous selection process; Hardaker believes that visitors will respect the live works of art, and is expecting limited interaction.

"Undressing and dressing is intimate; it endears us to the audience, placing the work in a normal context," he adds. Meanwhile, sounds streamed live from inside Wakefield Cathedral are piped into the exhibition.

The Calder is a capital project funded by Wakefield Council but council officials declined to give the cost of the new space. Charitable trusts, private backers and the Arts Council England Catalyst scheme, which provides match funding for each £1 donated, will fund the venue's exhibition and events programme.

Forthcoming shows are due to be announced next month following the appointment of the museum's new chief curator, Andrew Bonacina, who is also the curator of the Monsoon Art Collection. Hepworth Wakefield, designed by David Chipperfield, opened in May 2011 at a cost of £35m.

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2 Sep 13
19:33 CET


Great space, shame about the bollocks exhibition. Won't mean a thing to 95% of the public.

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