ARTS / Room for improvement: What are the ideal conditions in which to look at art? Dalya Alberge considers the custom-made Henry Moore Institute

THE Henry Moore Institute, the first centre in Europe devoted to the display, study and research of sculpture of all periods and nationalities, opens on 22 April in Leeds. After pounds 5 million worth of work, a Grade II listed building - three adjoining early-Victorian wool merchants' houses - has been converted into a 20,000-square-foot arts centre with a reference library, two reading-rooms, an archive on Moore, Gill and other sculptors since 1860 and a multi-media interactive video disc with which vistors can create video-essays.

Although it would have been easier - and cheaper - to have knocked the existing building down and started again, or to have explored a different site altogether, the beauty of this building was its position. It stands on a premier site in the city centre, right next to the imposing City Art Gallery and Museum, and is within tripping distance of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Dean Clough, the Henry Moore Sculpture Trust's showcase near Halifax.

Its size was also ideal. Robert Hopper, the moving force behind the Institute, wanted something on a 'domestic' scale. 'I didn't want an awe- inspiring institution,' he says. 'I wanted a friendly, accessible building. I didn't want you to feel you're in a 'gallery', but to present art in a fresher way - getting away from that dreadful memory of school trips to galleries of 'you, the object under scrutiny, glass, labels, academic ideas and hushed tones'.' Hopper shopped for ideas on the high street. In a designer clothes shop, for example, he noted how the subtlety of designs focused the eye on the key feature - the clothes-rail - and he used similar neutrality in the Institute to direct attention. He wanted to avoid the slightest distraction from the art - even picture hanging-rails and dados had to be removed.

After consultations with sculptors and curators, Hopper and architects Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones (involved with the proposed extension to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden) came up with a neutral design - something that would work for both classical and contemporary art. The end result is very beautiful. Whiter-than-white walls, dark grey floors and carpets, and steel finishes along the stairs, complement oak surfaces. One of the main galleries is distinguished by seven-metre-high picture windows in opaque glass. They give off a delicate hazy wash of light and look rather like Japanese screens. Hopper insisted that doors, sockets and switches be virtually invisible. 'Otherwise you get a sculptural figure staring at a light switch on a wall.'

The architects have made the most of picture windows and natural light. Outside, they have devised an elegant solution to what was an unsightly front wall, covering it with granite squares that reflect light and surrounding buildings like a mirror.

The first exhibition is given over to Romanesque sculpture and includes stone figures removed from York Minster in the 1960s (which were in danger of falling off the facade). Last week, some of the stone figures were lying in the basement, wrapped in thick plastic sheets. You could just about see through them. They looked like bodies, frozen for centuries, and, like their temporary resting place, waiting to come to life.

The Henry Moore Institute opens on 22 April with Romanesque Stone Sculpture. 74 The Headrow, Leeds (0532 467467); admission is free

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing