The latest addition to Hauser & Wirth’s international portfolio of galleries dedicated to contemporary and modern art opens on Tuesday July 15 with Gig, an exhibition of dense and exuberant new sculptures by Phyllida Barlow. This is exciting news: Barlow is a significant British artist (her antimonumental work Untitled: Dock is currently on show at Tate Britain), while Hauser & Wirth represents more than 50 leading and emerging artists and is also responsible for the estates of Louise Bourgeois and Eva Hesse. However, what makes this new space really interesting is its location in a group of Grade II-listed farm buildings on the edge of the rural English town of Bruton, Somerset.
When Iwan and Manuela Wirth first discovered Durslade Farm, it was falling into disrepair, but they saw an opportunity to create an innovative platform from which to share their passion for contemporary art with the community of Bruton – and beyond. Planning permission was granted in 2012 and now the 100-acre site is home to two new purpose-built galleries, developed by long-term collaborator Luis Laplace of Laplace & Co architects, as well as a number of renovated historic buildings and a landscaped garden designed by Piet Oudolf. (Drawings of his designs are on show.)
The central focus of Hauser & Wirth Somerset is the art, of course, and the core exhibition programme, which Barlow begins in bold and colourful style (with works such as Untitled: Stashhoarding, first picture; Untitled: Gig, second picture; and Untitled: Postscorral, third picture, all price on request), will focus on new work by the gallery’s roster of artists.
However, this is also an innovative arts centre offering an impressive programme of talks, seminars, residencies and events, including collaborations with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre and the University of Exeter. And since no decent arts centre is complete without a good café or restaurant, it has one of those, too. Run by award-winning, Bruton-based restaurant At The Chapel, Roth Bar & Grill promises locally sourced food in a beautiful landscape. What’s not to love?