Director Simon Wallis celebrates five years of the Hepworth
- Credit: Gabriel Szabo/Guzelian
Simon says… thank you to the colleagues who have helped him make The Hepworth Wakefield such a success
As it enters its milestone fifth year, the champagne corks are already popping at The Hepworth Wakefield to celebrate director Simon Wallis picking up his OBE from Buckingham Palace. The award, presented by the Prince of Wales, recognises his contribution to the visual arts via his tireless work at the highly successful Wakefield gallery over the last seven years (he was on-board before the doors opened – or, indeed, were even hung).
He was joined at the palace investiture by his wife Dr Deborah Marks, a consultant psychotherapist at a Leeds practice, and their children Maya, 13, and Joseph, 11.
‘I was delighted to be able to share this memorable experience with my family,’ said Simon. ‘However, the credit for the OBE is shared by the wonderful team at The Hepworth Wakefield, colleagues at Wakefield Council and the Arts Council, trustees, friends and family, who have tirelessly supported me in developing and realising our ongoing ambitions for the gallery.
‘David Chipperfield’s world-class design and the Hepworth Family Gift have also been essential to our success.’
The Hepworth Wakefield has an ambitious programme of exhibitions, projects and events in the pipeline to celebrate its anniversary.
‘I’m looking forward hugely to our fifth anniversary at the gallery,’ said Simon, who studied fine art at Chelsea School of Art and gained an MA in art gallery and museum studies at the University of Manchester. ‘It’s going to be our biggest year to date as we continue to put Wakefield and Yorkshire on the national and international map by bringing the best visual art to a wide and engaged audience.’
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He’s overseen the gallery’s development since July 2008. The Hepworth Wakefield opened on May 21st 2011 but, as its first employee, Simon’s work in Wakefield began much earlier as he developed the vision, business plan, team and programme, while advocating for the project regionally and nationally.
He worked closely with David Chipperfield’s team of architects to ensure the building fulfilled its exacting brief and locked in key exhibits, like the Hepworth Family Gift and the Wakefield Permanent Art Collection alongside a changing programme of ambitious contemporary art and an award-winning integrated learning programme.
More recently, he led an ambitious project to repurpose and reinvigorate Caddies Wainwright Mill, a 19th century former textile mill on the River Calder adjacent to the gallery. The ground floor of this historic building opened to the public in August 2013 as The Calder, an art and events space that extended The Hepworth Wakefield by a further 600 square metres.
As if he wasn’t busy enough, Simon is also a founding member of the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle that comprises The Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, The Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Art Gallery; plays an active role on the steering committee of the Plus Tate Partnership network and is a founding member of a new initiative for cultural leaders in the West Yorkshire region called The Culture Club.