AT a time when budgets are stretched, funding has been slashed and some galleries have been forced to close - it is a gift that shows the enduring nature of Yorkshire’s connection to the arts.
One of the country’s largest bequests in recent years - a collection of more than 400 paintings, sculptures, ceramics and books - has been gifted to The Hepworth Wakefield from a self-confessed “art-oholic”.
For London-based collector Tim Sayer, a retired BBC Radio 4 newswriter, collecting art took precedence over holidays, and over 50 years he amassed a collection including work by Yorkshire’s David Hockney and Henry Moore; American artists Alexander Calder and Sol Lewitt; plus Anthony Caro, Sonia Delaunay, Paul Nash, Gerhard Richter and Bridget Riley.
Inspired by a visit last year to the West Yorkshire galley, named after Wakefield sculptor Barbara Hepworth, he was motivated to leave his collection to Wakefield Permanent Art Collection, which is housed at the Hepworth.
“I was amazed by David Chipperfield’s remarkable building with its sequence of ten beautifully-lit gallery spaces, and I realised that it would be the perfect home for my collection,” he said.
To celebrate the bequest, from April 30, around 100 pieces of the Sayer collection will be displayed at the gallery, including a selection from a portfolio of more than 150 early prints – the first works that Sayer collected – alongside significant groupings of works by Naum Gabo and Prunella Clough.
The exhibition will explore the domestic context of the collection, which currently occupies almost every surface of Sayer’s home - which will also be left the the Hepworth following his death.
The exhibition will run alongside one celebrating one of British arts other great private collections, that of Jim Ede at his home, Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge.
Mr Sayer said it gave him “great satisfaction” to pledge the collection to The Hepworth, “where it will be enjoyed by generations of gallery goers for many years”.
“As a self-confessed ‘art-oholic’, my collection has been a lifetime’s passion, inspired by seeing the collection at Kettle’s Yard, which I’m delighted will be on display concurrently,” he added
The bequest has been hailed by Sir Nicholas Serota, director of Tate, as “one of the most significant and generous donations” to a regional gallery in the UK.
He said: “The collection reflects the discriminating eye of a person of modest means, whose passion for art ‘took precedence over holidays’. The Hepworth Wakefield, with its fine sequence of galleries, will be enormously enriched by the bequest.
“At times like these, with public funding cutbacks, arts and heritage organisations need all the private help they can get. It would be wonderful if Tim Sayer’s example encouraged other collectors
to be as generous. I hope that we can make private giving to the arts and other charities an everyday part of our social and cultural life.”
The bequest comes as the gallery celebrates its fifth anniversary. Since opening, it has secured acquisitions and gifts worth more than £7m, building on the Hepworth Family Gift - a collection of models, drawings, lithographs and screen prints by Barbara Hepworth given to the galley by the artist’s daughters Rachel Kidd and Sarah Bowness, which is central to the gallery’s permanent collection.
Director of the Hepworth Wakefield, Simon Wallis said philanthropic gifts play “a vital role” in nurturing nationally important visual arts in West Yorkshire.
“Continuing to build on the legacy of Wakefield’s unique collection has been a fundamental part of our ambitions at The Hepworth Wakefield and there will be the opportunity to see some of these newly acquired works in our new collection displays during our fifth anniversary year,” he said.
“We realise the vital importance of collecting for current and future generations. I am
delighted therefore to announce that we will be introducing the Own Art scheme at the gallery later
this year, to help aspiring collectors develop their own art collections.”
Galley key to city’s regeneration
WHEN it opened in May 2011, the Hepworth Wakefield began the transformation of a forgotten corner of the city.
It welcomed its millionth visitor in December 2013, attracted £350m of inward investment to the city and just last week, a deal was announced that could see a large area of derelict mills next to the gallery transformed into a “cultural hub”, creating 1,000 jobs.
The leader of Wakefield Council, Peter Box, said the Sayer gift would “contribute significantly” to the expanding Wakefield Permanent Art Collect as a major public resource.
He added: “It builds on the strategic investment we have made in creating The Hepworth Wakefield to ensure that culture-led regeneration continues ambitiously in the region.”
Pictures: Rosie Hallam