The Hepworth Wakefield and its Audience(s): The Importance of Scale, Space and Place in Constructing Social Relations in the Art Gallery


Institutional knowledge of audiences is often framed around scaled notions of ‘local’, ‘national’, ‘international’, ‘community’ and so on. In analyses, however, the epistemological and ontological status of these terms is rarely questioned. If we are to gain a deeper understanding of knowledge production in the gallery, it is vital that the particular ways that spaces and scales are enacted and evoked by various actors in and around the organisation are explored. This thesis argues that by employing a methodological approach of situated action and relational assemblage it is possible not only to unpick such constructions of ‘local’ and ‘(inter)national’, but also to move beyond counterpositional or hierarchical thinking and practice towards more productive ways of working with and through complexity. This exploration will be grounded in the organisational practices and social relations that form a particular art gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield. Drawing on my autoethnographic experiences as a colleague and a researcher within the organisation, the ambition of this thesis is to explore the dynamic processes of different practices, ideas, materials and affects assembling (dissembling and reassembling) at different moments to create different performances and enactions of The Hepworth Wakefield. Each are perspectives on reality, which can be mobilised at different times and in different ways, sometimes brought to the fore, sometimes pushed to the background. By attending closely to processes and actions in the Gallery at particular moments (situated action), this thesis will trace (re)configurations of The Hepworth Wakefield – as ‘local’, as ‘(inter)national, as ‘community’, as ‘artworld’, and so on – and will explore the productive possibilities of acknowledging and celebrating the multiple realities and complexities of the Gallery, and propose ways of moving forward in these differences, rather than seeking their resolution

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