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Major new exhibition opens exploring the human form within art, fashion and design
Installation shot of Disobedient Bodies: JW Anderson curates The Hepworth Wakefield. Photo: Lewis Ronald. Courtesy The Hepworth Wakefield.

WAKEFIELD.- Disobedient Bodies: JW Anderson curates The Hepworth Wakefield sees one of the world’s most innovative and critically acclaimed contemporary fashion designers responding to Wakefield’s impressive collection of modern British art. This is the first in a new series of exhibitions at the award-winning gallery, curated by key figures from creative fields outside the visual arts, from fashion and music to film and literature.

As his starting point for the exhibition, Anderson was drawn to early works by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore from the 1920s and 1930s that represented the human body in radical new ways. These increasingly abstracted, yet defiantly figurative sculptures led to an exhibition exploring how the human form has been reimagined by artists and designers across the 20th and 21st centuries.

The exhibition gathers together a personal selection of more than 100 objects spanning art, fashion, ceramics and design in a series of unexpected and irreverent groupings. Using fabric from JW Anderson’s archive, 6a architects have transformed the David Chipperfield-designed galleries into a series of rooms that are designed to conjure an intimate social gathering.

Sculptures by artists including Jean Arp, Louise Bourgeois, Lynn Chadwick, Naum Gabo, Alberto Giacometti, Barbara Hepworth, Sarah Lucas, Henry Moore, Magali Reus and Dorothea Tanning are brought into direct dialogue with fashion pieces by designers such as Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo of Commes des Garçons, Helmut Lang, Issey Miyake and Vivienne Westwood.

At the centre of the exhibition, Anderson has created an installation comprising a forest of oversized jumpers, which invites visitors to transform their own bodies into abstract forms. The physical experience of interacting with materials, silhouettes and shapes is an important element of Anderson’s vision for the exhibition.

An introductory gallery presents Henry Moore’s masterpiece Reclining Figure (1936), a highlight of Wakefield’s Collection, against a series of photographs by Jamie Hawkesworth. The Thinleys series is a creative collaboration between Hawkesworth and Anderson that the pair have returned to annually exploring different fabrics each time – knit (2015), fur (2016) and cotton (2017) – turning the human form into sculptural shapes that have interesting parallels with many of the artworks shown throughout the exhibition.

Jonathan Anderson said: “This is a rare and exciting opportunity for me to bring together pieces of art and fashion that have long inspired my own creative work and to see what happens when these objects rub up against each other. I want the exhibition to mirror the speed and unexpected encounters that characterise the way in which we consume images today, as well as being a space in which to explore ideas of gender and identity that have been an ongoing part of my creative practice.”

Simon Wallis, Director of The Hepworth Wakefield said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working with one of the world’s most talented contemporary fashion designers and a leading architectural practice to show our collection in an unconventional and innovative way. This ambitious exhibition was born out of Jonathan’s genuine and long-standing passion for modern art twinned with his experiments with non- gendered clothing. This very personal interpretation will entice visitors to enjoy our outstanding collections in a very different context and get inspired by the cross-pollination inherent in the creative process.”

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