Obituary: Robert Hopper

ROBERT HOPPER was one of a handful of British museum professionals with a truly international outlook and reputation. During his 11 years as Director of the Henry Moore Sculpture Trust, located in West Yorkshire and funded by the Henry Moore Foundation, he brought to Britain artists of the greatest distinction from continental Europe and the United States. This was achieved through a series of projects and exhibitions which were unusual, both in the freedoms accorded to the visiting artists, and in the professionalism and seriousness with which they were realised.

Hopper was born in 1946 in Grantham and educated at Sedbergh School and at Manchester University, where he took an honours degree in History of Art in 1973. Five years older than the general Manchester intake of 1970, he was a popular and charismatic student, cherished by his peers for a combination of wisdom and kindliness; characteristics which seemed in short supply in the years following the student unrest of 1968.

Immediately after graduating, he was appointed Assistant Keeper, Art, at the Whitworth Art Gallery at Manchester University. There he organised numerous exhibitions, including the biennial Northern Young Contemporaries exhibition for student artists and, with Andrew Causey, the retrospective "Peter Lanyon: Paintings, Drawings and Constructions 1937-64".

Hopper's lasting contribution to the Whitworth Art Gallery was to its collection. Working closely with the gallery's Principal Keeper, Francis Hawcroft, he implemented a series of significant acquisitions during the later 1970s, including works by Harold Gilman, Stanley Spencer, John Piper and Peter Lanyon. More exciting still was the purchase of two important "pop" paintings by R.B. Kitaj and Peter Blake, and of masterpieces, Man's Head, Portrait, 1963, by Lucian Freud (of Freud) and Portrait of Lucian Freud, 1951, by Francis Bacon. With purchases like these, the Whitworth was to affirm its position amongst the leading modern collections in Britain.

In 1981 Hopper was appointed Director of Bradford City Art Galleries and Museums. For the next eight years, he ran a busy and effective local authority museum service, managing six public art galleries and museums, a large community arts centre and numerous ancillary organisations. The service which he took over was in need of modernisation and rationalisation and this he achieved, as much through common sense and good-humour as through a very considerable talent as an administrator.

Robert Hopper always saw the big picture. Typically, within two years of his arrival in Bradford, he had instigated a major exhibition based on the Oriental collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. "Petals from a Lotus: an introduction to the arts and history of the Indian subcontinent" was an artistic, political and popular success, establishing a new and invaluable relationship between a regional museum service and one of the great art collections of the world, transforming the museum's profile within the large Asian community of West Yorkshire, and attracting over 120,000 visitors.

During his years in Bradford, Hopper maintained and developed his serious interest in modern and contemporary sculpture. He made a number of intelligent acquisitions for the permanent collections there, purchasing sculpture by Lynn Chadwick, Frank Dobson and Eduardo Paolozzi among others. He organised and catalogued the exhibition "True and Pure Sculpture: Frank Dobson 1886- 1963" which toured Britain in 1981. He was elected Chairman of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 1982, and devoted much time and energy to the consolidation and expansion of the park as a national resource.

At the instigation of Alan Bowness, Hopper was appointed founding Director of the Henry Moore Sculpture Trust in 1988. Based in Leeds City Art Gallery, in 1989 the trust accepted Ernest Hall's invitation to take up a 60-year lease in a former carpet mill at Dean Clough, Halifax, to house the Henry Moore Sculpture Trust Studio.

In Leeds, the Henry Moore Institute, linked by a bridge to the City Art Gallery, opened in April 1993 with an important exhibition, "Romanesque Stone Sculpture from Medieval England". This second development completed the physical realisation of the Henry Moore Foundation's vision of a new sculpture facility for exhibitions, study and research in Leeds, with a complementary facility for artistic innovation in the laboratory environment of the studio at Dean Clough.

An experimental installation by the Italian sculptor Giuseppe Penone established the Halifax studio's international credentials from the outset. This was followed by the inaugural exhibition, a spectacular group of new works by Richard Long, opened by the Prince of Wales in October 1989.

The list of artists exhibited at the studio over the next decade would bring credit to any Kunsthalle in the world. Among them were Ulrich Ruckriem, Bruce McLean, Jannis Kounellis, Alison Wilding, Magdalena Jetelova, Lawrence Weiner, James Turrell, Christian Boltanski, Wolfgang Laib, Anthony Caro and Georg Herold. That this was achieved in West Yorkshire was little short of miraculous. Furthermore, for many participating artists, their Yorkshire project turned out to be amongst the most satisfying and rewarding experiences of their careers.

Richard Long describes Robert Hopper as "one of the most friendly and sensible people in the art world; both serious and passionate about art". Speaking from New York, Lawrence Weiner acknowledges "a generosity towards art that is rare in the world in which we live". Such accolades from artists are themselves rare. Robert Hopper's blend of professionalism, integrity and warmth without sentimentality made possible a series of creative liaisons with world artists which was uniquely valuable to the cultural life of his country.

Robert Thomas Cort Hopper, museum director, curator and arts administrator: born Grantham, Lincolnshire 26 June 1946; Assistant Keeper, Art, Whitworth Art Gallery 1973-80, Deputy Principal Keeper 1980-81; Director, Bradford Art Galleries and Museums 1981-88; Director, Henry Moore Sculpture Trust 1988-99; Head of Henry Moore Foundation External Programmes 1999; married 1973 Christine Ball (one son, two daughters); died Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire 18 December 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
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’
art
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
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
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

TV
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

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    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