Behind the scenes at The Hepworth

Serena Korda, Hold Fast, Stand Sure, I Scream a Revolution 2016.

Emily Riddle, assistant curator at The Hepworth Wakefield gives an insight into her role:

Starting as assistant curator at The Hepworth Wakefield last October was a kind of homecoming for me.

Emily Riddle, assistant curator at The Hepworth Wakefield

Having been brought up just a few minutes down the road, I began as a volunteer at the gallery in 2013. Back then, I had very little confidence in speaking about visual art; eventually becoming a curator was not on my agenda. But welcoming people to the exhibitions and collection displays quickly had me hooked and a possible career path began to reveal itself.

Fast forward four years, I find myself joining the team at the Art Fund Museum of the Year. We are lucky in Wakefield to have one of the strongest public collections of 20th Century British art in the country. As custodians of this collection, my team is constantly developing new ways to show these works and finding different communities of people to explore them with.

An exciting aspect of my job is to collaborate with contemporary artists, and people working in other fields, to bring rarely-seen parts of the collection out on display.

Working with artist Serena Korda on our current exhibition of ceramics allowed me to bring some objects out of the stores and into the gallery for the first time. Serena wanted to help open up different ways of approaching ceramics.

Some works she chose to show are by famous artists, others by those who are little known or now entirely anonymous. Almost all these works were new to me. It’s a privilege now to see visitors sharing this sense of discovery in the gallery.

When I talk to people who have never visited an art gallery before, they sometimes worry that they don’t feel art is ‘for them’, that they just won’t ‘get’ it. But the fact that The Hepworth Wakefield is a public gallery means, by definition, that it is for all of us; the idea that there is something to ‘get’ is an unhelpful myth. Sometimes I fall victim to it, too. My advice? Push aside the pressure to understand, or even to like what you see. Trust yourself. Re-find the curiosity of a child, and be open to something new.

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