It is a strange phenomenon, Hauser and Wirth in Somerset. if you link up to the Hauser and Wirth website you begin to get how strange it is- you can click on to any of their galleries- Zurich/Shanghai/Hongkong/London/New York…. and Bruton, Somerset. Eh?
And yet here it sits …. in magnificently landscaped grounds, in the heart of rolling, rural Somerset, in a beautifully restored and extended medieval farm and barn (designed by Parisian architects) …. lurks a large contemporary art centre: a shrine in renovated stone work, polished concrete, wood and glass.
Hauser and Wirth are one of the most successful contemporary commercial art dealers in the world. And yet they have chosen this small Somerset village setting for this beautiful exhibition/education space. Hauser and Wirth are a married couple of art dealers from Zurich whose children attend a school near Bruton….where they have opened this enchanting space. Extraordinary.
We went there on October 29th, which was the annual pumpkin festival. A strange local/international experience. Externally we were surrounded by pumpkins and people under ten years old with squeally voices. Inside we were enclosed in silence, renovated stonework, cool polished concrete and a very grown-up, urban-meets-rural atmosphere. We went to see the exhibition ‘ Stages and Tales’ by Dutch artist Berlinde de Bruckyere: a series of wall-mounted sculptural forms made from old blankets draped over frames. The forms hint at austerity/homelessness/sleeping rough and the decaying state of the western world and its societies. In a beautifully maintained gallery like this the effect was eerie and quite sickly. The artist had cured the works by rotting the blankets out in her studio courtyard over months. I found them oppressive, It was like stepping into a fairytale by the brother’s Grimm. society rotting amidst the polished concrete world of high art. It was quite terrifying. Surely they would have realised the impact of these pieces in the context? Surely that was half the point?