What was once the threshing barn
Originally published on The Learned Pig, September 2014.
Public/private, urban/rural, commercial/not-for-profit: it’s not like the waters between the two have ever been crystal clear, but now, with the opening in Somerset of the latest outpost of contemporary art giants Hauser & Wirth (London, Zurich, New York) the silt has been stirred up and it all seems just that little bit muddier than before.
Not, of course, that this need be a cause for despair. Yet. Hauser & Wirth Somerset is situated on the outskirts of the smart little town of Bruton, where Iwan and Manuela Wirth have now lived for some years. The town is home to a fourteenth-century church, a lovely packhorse bridge (over the prone-to-flooding river Brue), and the National Trust-managed Dovecote, which overlooks it all from atop a green and gentle mount.
Just past the station and the glossily-signposted King’s Bruton School, Hauser & Wirth Somerset spreads itself comfortably over the various buildings of Durslade Farm, which dates back to the 1760s. There are offices, an art shop, a café-restaurant (run by the brilliant At the Chapel), a building for artist residencies, plenty of gallery spaces of course, and a wonderfully landscaped meadow by Piet Oudolf. The garden is still very much in its infancy on the day I visit, but if previous projects such as Pensthrope and Scampston Hall are anything to go by, maturity will bring with it great beauty and richness. Coming soon is also a shop selling produce from Durslade itself (beyond Hauser & Wirth, we’re told, this is still a working farm).
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