The exhibition design for Barbara Hepworth: In Equilibrium makes an intentional shift away from the white cube gallery that Hepworth eschewed, rejecting the convention of viewing art in a neutral, context-free space.
The layout varies in visual intensity from a grid field upon entry where each piece can be viewed and studied singularly, to clustered groups that respond to the themes present in the work, and a further shift to immersive curtained spaces where individual sculptures can be experienced against a garden backdrop.
Rich textures and colours have been selected to evoke haptic qualities and to complement the array of materials that the artist has carved into and worked from. The materiality is also intended to create a sense of domesticity and ‘living with art’, for which Hepworth was an advocate.
All the three-dimensional works have been pulled away from the wall to allow them to be experienced in their entirety, and the plinths grow and shrink to guide the viewer’s body through the space—encouraging visitors to move and engage with Hepworth’s sculptures.
In Hepworth’s own words;
Everything I make is to touch and people usually do which pleases me and it’s really important with sculpture not just to sort of plonk up and look because it changes all the time, so the real thing for people is to move with their bodies. If I make them do that then I’m very happy.
It’s lovely to pick up a stone and it’s lovely to live with a sculpture because it changes in every possible light—all through the day, moonlight, artificial light, any light! It’s always changing.
Acknowledging that many of Hepworth’s sculptures were conceived to be viewed and experienced in a garden or landscape environment, key works have been located where possible in front of windows to allow the Heide landscape to form a backdrop to the work.
The exhibition is accompanied by an interactive string installation that draws inspiration from Hepworth’s sculptures, inviting children and adults alike to visualise and engage with the spatial qualities within her work.
 Miranda Phillips and Chris Stephens, Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden, Tate Publishing, London, 2008