Aesthetica Art Prize Talk: Dr Sam Lackey, Curator at The Hepworth Wakefield

For the second talk in the series that runs alongside the Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition, we hear from Dr Sam Lackey, Curator at The Hepworth Wakefield who will discuss “what we talk about when we talk about art”. During this talk at 12.30pm on 16 April, visitors to York St Mary’s will be able to learn more about current approaches to contemporary art in an interactive and engaging session. Ahead of the event, we speak with Sam Lackey about her role at The Hepworth Wakefield.

A: What does your role as Curator at The Hepworth Wakefield entail?
SL: My role is incredibly varied, it ranges from the extraordinary to the mundane (yet necessary). One day I could be sourcing 50 snakes for an artist’s project, another will be spent on cashflow forecasts!

A: In your opinion, why are awards such as the Aesthetica Art Prize important for artists and the international art world?
SL: Art Prizes offer an exceptional opportunity for artists at all stages in their career and located around the world in vastly different contexts to submit an application that lands on a relatively even playing field. The subesquent exposure, and of course the money are incredibly important steps in enabling artists to raise their profile and potentially concentrate or develop an aspect of their practice.

A: This year you will be leading a tour around the exhibition. How will you inspire a discussion on ways of talking and thinking about contemporary art?
SL: I led a tour last year, for which I had prepared with lots of contextual background reading and a set of ideas I thought I should discuss in relation to my title. However, the audience was so interested and engaged that the talk shifted completely and brilliantly. This time I am planning on drawing on some of the questions that were raised last time: how can we judge art? what are we supposed to be talking about when we discuss art?

A: The Aesthetica Art Prize takes place in a medieval building. How do the surroundings of an exhibition impact the viewing experience?
SL: The surroundings or environment of an exhibition can’t be underestimated. The Hepworth’s minimalist white spaces always operate to “clean up” or aestheticise anything that we exhibit. In quite a different way the medieval church that hosts the Aesthetica Art Prize encouraged me to think again about the secular role of art as opposed to the ‘ritual’ or religious role of art and the desire to project meaning and universal themes upon contemporary art.

A: Can you talk about The Hepworth’s upcoming projects for 2015?
SL: Forthcoming projects are kicked off with our first Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle collaboration on a Anthony Caro exhibition, with works at The Hepworth and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This will be closely followed by an exhibition of new work by Enrico David who will be showing at the same time as the British printmaker and sculptor, Gertrude Hermes, a contemporary of Barbara Hepworth.

Join Sam Lackey’s talk, which is free to attend and open to all. From 12.30pm, Thursday 16 April, Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition, York St Mary’s, Castlegate, York, YO1 9RN. For more information visit

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1. Owen Waterhouse, Möbius 1.00 (2014). Photo: Jim Poyner