Avant-Gardening at Hauser & Wirth Somerset
When gallery director Alice Workman opened Hauser & Wirth Somerset in 2014, there were very few art destinations in the English countryside that so expertly cohered sculpture, food, gardening, art, and culture into one vicinity. Today, the destination gallery is revered for doing all of those things well– and for commissioning a world-class garden in the process.
Hauser & Wirth’s Somerset gallery in Bruton was one of the world’s major art gallery openings in 2014, thanks especially to Piet Oudolf, an internationally-renowned landscape designer from the Netherlands who designed what would become the gallery’s feature garden. Today Oudolf Field is a labyrinthine series of mass plantings lush with allium, geranium, red button, aster umbellatus, and other native English grasses. Hauser & Wirth has a full-time gardener tending to the landscape, which is interwoven with a mix of sculptures including Anri Sala’s “Clocked Perspective” (2012), and Chilean architect Smiljan Radić’s “Radić Pavilion”, which hosts an array of lectures and other gallery programming throughout the year.
Inside, Roth Bar & Grill is abuzz with activity as the gallery’s in-house farm-to-table restaurant. Patrons can enjoy locally-sourced, locally-grown food sourced from Durslade Farm, which will also provide the gallery’s forthcoming farm shop with a range of wool and mohair products from their native Angora goats (the farm, which is owned by the gallery, has one of the largest flocks in the UK).
On site, the artist roster is impressive: an internal courtyard hosts one of Louise Bourgeois’ iconic “Spider” sculptures, and an adjoining gallery includes a direct-to-wall “Space Painting” from Chinese artist Zhang Enli. The art, combined with the food and garden amenities, makes for a melange of cultural enrichment. Accordingly, the gallery hosts a series of artist-, specialist-, and curator-led talks, seminars, and events that are open to schools, colleges, universities, and locals. Access to the galleries is otherwise free to the public, with donations accepted to benefit the Somerset Wildlife Trust and give back to the local community. On the day that Garden Collage was on site, a flight of students overtook the gallery for a drawing lesson.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset has received praise from the art world, the food world, and travel publications alike– but the enduring charm of its garden and the unique way the gallery curates nature to underscore art, food, and life is what leaves a lasting impression.