'The Hepworth Wakefield, where's that?', I asked my wife. We agreed that it must be somewhere near the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) and, as both were putting on shows of Anthony Caro's work, we had better go to to the previews. So, we did and that day in July last year changed our lives. We ended up at the Hepworth, after being bussed over from YSP and our first view of it took our breath away. And that was just the outside, plus the River Calder, of course. Once we got inside, saw the galleries and met Simon Wallis, the energetic director, his staff and some of the local people we were won over.
I have been collecting art since 1962 (it's all explained on The Hepworth website) and my wife, Annemarie (who makes beautiful costumes for the opera and ballet) has supported me unerringly. Maybe she should have restrained me from spending money occasionally: we have been a bit short on holidays (actually none) in the past few years. All this art was stuffed into our Victorian house in north London and because we have no children or siblings, we have been looking for a gallery to leave it to. That day decided us: The Hepworth Wakefield it would be.
Simon was very keen, visited us within a few weeks and immediately said he would like the lot. It was originally a bequest, but now, to make life easier, it's a gift. Last winter, Simon suggested, in jest I thought, that we lend the Hepworth 60 works for display this summer. But he persisted, he wasn't joking, and our resistance crumbled.
In April this year, about 100 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, ceramics and sculpture, were packed into a van and taken for display in Gallery 6 at the Hepworth until 9th October. Somehow the number had grown as I was carried away by my enthusiasm and that of the two curators, Sam Lackey and Andrew Bonacina. Not surprisingly, our home felt a bit empty but that was soon remedied by hauling works out of storage and borrowing a few from artist and gallerist friends. Nearly all the gaps have been filled and it has been interesting reappraising works that we hadn't looked at for years. We will try to keep some of them on show but there were clearly good reasons for consigning some others to the loft. As for the Hepworth, three days hard work in April and the whole lot was up looking absolutely marvellous. Sam, Andrew and I hardly exchanged a cross word.
The reaction from the public, and gallery staff has been heartening. The exhibition has also given us a chance to walk round the sculpture and stand back more than a dozen paces from the works on the walls: not possible in our house. The media attention that was so craftily co-ordinated by Olivia and Naomi at the Hepworth was a triumph. Within hours of the anouncement of the exhibition, radio, TV, newspaper and magazine journalists descended on the house, accompanied by producers, snappers, sound and lighting experts etc. For one day I was the most famous man in Yorkshire, but then Geoffrey Boycott reasserted his supremacy.
And has it all been worth it? You bet! We have met lots of new friends at the Hepworth and introduced the gallery to many of our chums. And some of the journalists who interviewed me have become friends. The Hepworth is getting the art (probably about 50 pieces initially, once my show is over) and up to 400 eventually. And all the books. It's got to be sorted out over the next few years (discarding the stuff that is not suitable for the Hepworth) but I'm confident that it will happen.
Tony Hall, my old boss at the BBC, has agreed to be patron of the Gift; Nick Serota, director of Tate has been extremely supportive. I am enormously grateful to them and to the countless other people who have been so enthusiastic. It's all made the past half-century of collecting worthwhile. I hope that other collectors will follow my example and give to museums around the UK. London doesn't need any more art but the regions do. And money!