Something new ia stirring in the countryside in Somerset, England. Commercial art galleries such as the Gagosian, White Cube, PACE and Victoria Miro provide international-quality exhibitions on the artists they represent, current examples being Jeff Koons at the Gargosian in New York and Alexander Calder in London. The auction houses also similarly do so through selling exhibitions such as the Banksy retrospective currently on show at Sotheby’s and their famous Damien Hirst exhibition of 2008. These compliment the public galleries and add immeasurably to the artistic life in the cities in which they are based.
Hauser and Wirth are breaking the mould, having closed their gallery in Piccadilly, London and developed their new space in the heart of the English countryside in deepest Somerset. In doing so, they follow the path of private foundations such as the Cass Sculpture Gallery near Chichester in Sussex and Jupiter Artland outside Edinburgh in Scotland.
The new site is located at Durslade Farm in Bruton, Somerset, which dates from 1769. Under the plans developed by Luis Laplace, the French designers, the former stables and workshops will provide a reading room, library, education space and office and the cowsheds will be converted into a restaurant, visitors’ entrance and bookshop. Five gallery spaces will be provided, starting in the stunning old threshing barn and running through to two new spaces. Opening to the public this week, visitors will be welcomed by the huge Louise Bourgeois spider and sculptures by Martin Creed, Ron Mueck and Henry Moore. The initial images suggest that there will be a subtle contrast between the old buildings, which will retain much of their charm and character, and the new extensions which will be simple and sympathetic.
Iwan Wirth, President of Hauser & Wirth, explained “We see ourselves as custodians of these beautiful historic buildings, and we are delighted to be bringing a world-class facility and public resource to the people of Bruton and Somerset. This new gallery will be of international significance, but at its core will be the local landscape and community.”
The inaugural exhibition is Phyllida Barlow’s ‘GIG’, which will run in parallel with her huge installation ‘dock’ in the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain and her exhibition of drawings at Hauser and Wirth in London ‘GIG’ comprises an entirely new body be of work created in response to the architecture and surrounding landscape of Durslade Farm and will occupy the Threshing Barn, adjoining farm buildings, outdoor spaces and one of the new galleries,
Also on show will be an exhibition of drawings by Piet Oudolf who has been responsible for the design of innovative landscaping projects including the High Line in New York, the Serpentine Gallery in London and the new garden for Hauser & Wirth Somerset, which will be open from 14 September 2014.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset will be contributing to the local art scene with its programme of exhibitions internationally renowned artists plus residencies, events, educational and outreach programmes.
An interesting new initiative – it will be interesting to see how it progresses and whether other galleries follow this path.