Hauser & Wirth Somerset opens with Phyllida Barlow Gig

31 July 2014 § Leave a comment

Hauser & Wirth are one of the powerhouses of worldwide contemporary art with galleries in Zurich, London, New York, Los Angeles and Bruton. Yes, you read that right, Bruton – a sleepy village home to some three thousand souls, a handful of pubs and a couple of takeaways.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
So why Somerset? The first thoughts are that the site is perhaps ideal for the outdoor display of large scale sculptures or that it could be considered a refreshing alternative to the widely prevalent ‘white cube’ city galleries. But whilst these thoughts are both in some way correct it is soon apparent that there is much more to the story.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Whilst Bruton may well turn out to be a great commercial success the deciding elements were much more personal. Back in 2005 Iwan and Manuela Wirth decided to live temporarily in England, at least in part so that their children were schooled for a while experiencing a different culture and language.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Before long their attachment became much deeper. They developed a love of the Somerset countryside, moved in to their own medieval house before discovering the almost derelict Durslade Farm. They quickly purchased the 18th century property and set about its restoration.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
The work that has been done is astonishing – a labour of love that has drawn on their considerable contact list. The run-down buildings have been sympathetically restored with old stone, brick and traditional materials, whilst new extensions are hidden behind the old facades.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
The very best architects and designers were given virtual free rein and have given new life to the historic buildings, creating no less than five gallery spaces plus offices, educational spaces, bar, bookshop and restaurant. Outside a muddy pasture is now a stunning garden, created by Piet Oudolf no less – the internationally-renowned designer behind New York’s High Line and the Queen Elizabeth Park at the London Olympic site.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
I have yet to move on to the contents of the space and again it is hard to rein in the superlatives. The galleries will of course house some of the world’s finest contemporary art. Since the first gallery opened its doors in 1992 at the old Löwenbräu brewery building in Zurich Hauser & Wirth have steadily built up a remarkable stable of artists, now represening giants like Allan Kaprow, Paul McCarthy, Ron Mueck, Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois, amongst many others.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
The first to occupy the main gallery spaces is Phyllida Barlow, who recently wowed the art world with her striking installation ‘Dock’ at Tate Britain (see our review here), and is similarly impressive with this show. Entitled ‘Gig’ it commands the four varied spaces it occupies, her ramshackle aesthetic of accumulated fabric scraps and building materials nicely commenting on the cycle of dereliction and renovation work just completed at the site.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
As would be anticipated the bar and restaurant doesn’t just serve top quality food (courtesy of At The Chapel, Bruton) but is also an ‘installation’ by artists Bjorn & Oddur Roth with sundry fine artworks lining the dining room walls.
 With a big educational and artist residency programme plus a distinct community bias this is an establishment of huge ambition and matching quality. Bound to become an important fixture in the regions cultural and artistic landscape it’s future programme and progress is one to watch.

Dennis Hopper – The Lost Album at the Royal Academy

21 July 2014 § Leave a comment

As well as being a famed actor and director, Dennis Hopper was a prodigious snapper. For a period he took his beloved Nikon 28mm wherever he went, working so obsessively that his friends, the artists Wallace Berman and Edward Kienholz actually referred to him as ‘the tourist’.

Dennis Hopper The Lost Album, Royal Academy
During this period from 1961 to 1967 Hopper took over 18,000 photographs and in the process documented an era. This recording however was not in the form of a casual observer. Hopper had of course already appeared in rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956) – two of the eras seminal films that introduced fifties youth culture to a wary American public – and was an integral part of the Hollywood scene mingling, and friends with, the like of Peter and Jane Fonda, Bill Cosby, David Hemmings and Paul Newman.
Dennis Hopper The Lost Album, Royal Academy
Artistic throughout his life he created paintings, assemblages as well as photographs and participated in a number of group exhibitions in the sixties. He was intimately associated with the Los Angeles art world and photographed key figures like Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Allan Kaprow and Ed Ruscha.
Dennis Hopper The Lost Album, Royal Academy
His home was considered as something of a salon for artists, actors, writers and musicians – his eclectic possessions including artworks by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Ruscha and others – Andy Warhol himself once commenting that “Everyone in Hollywood I wanted to meet was there”.
Dennis Hopper The Lost Album, Royal Academy
His connections with important galleries like Ferus meant led to commissioned work for the like of Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and Artforum. Not only did he witness part of the Pop Art movement but also witnessed the flowering of the beat culture movement. Friendly with Allen  Ginsberg and Michael McClure he attended readings and hippie festivals taking photographs of the like of LSD king Timothy Leary.
Dennis Hopper The Lost Album, Royal Academy
Music was an essential part of the culture of the period and once again Hopper was there snapping Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds, James Brown and many more. The Hells Angels were frequently part of these festivals and further to his own deep interest in bikes (witness Easy Rider of course) he took many photographs of them too.
Dennis Hopper The Lost Album, Royal Academy
He did not either miss other social movements such as black power and civil rights, witnessing and recording many events, marches and the then inevitable police clashes.
Dennis Hopper The Lost Album, Royal Academy
An exhibition that superficially might therefore appear to be the casual photographs of a Hollywood icon is so, so much more.  We in effect have an insiders and participants view of one of the most important periods of American history witnessing and recording most of the important cultural and artistic events of the era.
Dennis Hopper The Lost Album, Royal Academy
Hopper’s images are by and large quite ordinary. If one takes many thousand images of such iconic events and personalities there are sure to be some great pieces – his Double Standard is reminiscent of the great works of Lee Friedlander for example – but the value here doesn’t lie in Hoppers moderate photographic talents but the astonishing breadth and depth of the images. Never mind the quality, feel the width.
Dennis Hopper – The Lost Album is at the Royal Academy, Burlington Gardens, London until 19 October 2014

 

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