Somerset's always been one of our favourite British counties for its landscape, boutique hotels and country charm. Moving away from any feelings of twee, this West County country has suddenly got cool with the recent opening of Hauser & Wirth Somerset.
As a pioneering world-class gallery and multi-purpose arts centre, Hauser & Wirth Somerset is a destination for experiencing art, architecture and the remarkable Somerset landscape through new and innovative exhibitions of contemporary art, as well as offering local-sourced produce in on-site restaurant, The Roth Bar & Grill. The gallery exhibition programme offers an extensive variety of events and learning opportunities inspired by the exhibitions, countryside and the local community, and is accompanied by an active artists’ residency programme. The centre also provides resources including a library and bookshop, and a landscaped meadow designed by Piet Oudolf.
Piet Oudolf, the internationally-renowned landscape designer from the Netherlands who has designed the landscaping scheme for the entire site, including the large perennial meadow to the north of the farmyard and new gallery buildings. Carefully shaped and planted, the garden echoes the tradition of classical gardens, but the variety of species and combination of plants creates a looseness, softening the formality of its appearance. Wide canopied trees will be planted between the gallery and garden to frame the view of the garden for visitors as they leave the buildings. The surrounding hedges provide a sense of enclosure, while the views of the hills and fields beyond remain visible. A series of paths cut through the vegetation, inviting visitors to wander through the garden. Oudolf’s landscaping design continues around the buildings including the inner cloister courtyard, where the old buildings meet the new. Oudolf has received many high profile commissions around the world, including working with Peter Zumthor on the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2011.
Further to the gallery itself and the gardens, Durslade’s Farmhouse forms part of a group of Grade II listed farm buildings that date back to as early as c. 1760. It was originally owned by the Berkeley family, who built the first buildings at Durslade and affixed their coat of arms to the Farmhouse, which can still be seen today. The farm has changed hands three times since the 18th century, however in recent years the buildings were left vacant and fell into disrepair. In 2012 Hauser & Wirth received planning permission to restore the buildings, and construction work started later that year. The elegant Farmhouse was the first building to be completed.
The building has been perceptively renovated by the architectural firms Laplace & Co. and benjamin + beauchamp. Luis Laplace also designed the Farmhouse’s interior. Full of character and bold innovative twists, it celebrates the natural antiquity of the building by combining original fittings with unexpected interiors and vintage furniture sourced from local shops and salvage yards. The interior is completed by unique artworks from two of Hauser & Wirth’s artists. Guillermo Kuitca has created a specially commissioned painted mural for the four walls of the dining room, and Pipilotti Rist, who spent twelve months living in Bruton, has produced a mesmerising video installation which projects the Somerset landscape onto the walls of the sitting room through a chandelier of found objects and glass. The Farmhouse can be used as accommodation for visiting guests and artists.
The gallery space's inaugral and current exhibition is Phyllida Barlow’s ‘GIG’. Following Barlow’s critically acclaimed Duveen Galleries Commission ‘dock’ at Tate Britain, ‘GIG’ comprises an entirely new body of work created in response to the architecture and surrounding landscape of Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Occupying the 18th-century Threshing Barn, adjoining farm buildings, outdoor spaces and one of the new galleries, Barlow’s dense and exuberant sequence of installations celebrates the rejuvenation of Durslade Farm that lay derelict and unoccupied prior to its recent conversion into an arts centre.
Since the late 1960s, British artist Phyllida Barlow has focused on the physical experience of handling materials, which she transforms through layering, accumulation and juxtaposition. Barlow’s direct and practical processes of making utilise readily available materials such as cardboard, cement and plaster, polystyrene, timber and paint. Barlow’s sculptural practice is grounded in an anti-monumental tradition and is concerned with the relationship between objects and the space that surrounds them.
In addition to the exhibition, Hauser & Wirth are also hosting a series of summer events including the Bristol Old Vic Theatre summer school [11 Aug – 21 Aug 2014], Director-led tour with Alice Workman [16 Aug], INCARNATE: A Performance Event [21 Aug], ART OF THE GARDEN: Designing Durslade, Piet Oudolf in conversation with Tania Compton [13 Sep], Mariella Frostrup in conversation with Phyllida Barlow [18 Sep], ART OF THE GARDEN: Jason Ingram Talk [27 Sep], ART OF THE GARDEN: Plant and Garden Photography Workshop with Jason Ingram [28 Sep] and ART OF THE GARDEN: Kim Wilkie – Pushing the Boundaries [02 Sep]
All Hauser & Wirth Somerset photography © Hélène Binet
Installation view, 'Phyllida Barlow. GIG', Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2014 © Phyllida Barlow. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Alex Delfanne
Works include: untitled: GIG, 2014; untitled: stashhoarding, 2014; untitled: holder, 2014; untitled: triplestackboulders, 2014; untitled: squatboulder, 2014; untitled: blockcratewedge, 2014; untitled: grinder, 2014; untitled: stackedchairs, 2014, untitled: megaphone, 2014; untitled: postscorral, 2014
View Hauser & Wirth Somerset's YouTube video on Phyllida Barlow’s ‘GIG’
Hauser & Wirth Somerset is open with free admission to the public, six days per week, throughout the year.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Durslade Farm, Dropping Lane, Bruton, Somerset BA10; hauserwirthsomerset.com