International art-dealing powerhouse Hauser & Wirth will soon add the rural Somerset, England, to its growing list of locations. The unconventionally sited gallery—principals Manuela and Iwan Wirth have had a home in the area for some years—will combine the typical exhibiting and selling functions of a commercial gallery with a restaurant and extensive public programming.
Founded in Zurich in 1992, Hauser & Wirth has since expanded to London and New York, and will debut a Los Angeles outpost in 2015. A show of new works by British sculptor Phyllida Barlow, created for the new space, will inaugurate the Somerset venue, which opens July 15. Exhibitions at Hauser & Wirth Somerset will feature the gallery's entire roster, which ranges from young artists like Rashid Johnson and Jakub Julian Ziolkowski to veterans such as Isa Genzken and Dan Graham.
The new gallery will occupy five buildings on as many acres of land at Durslade Farm, whose original three structures date from about 1760. Somerset is approximately two hours' train ride from London, in Southwest England; the farm lies on the edge of a town called Bruton, with a population of fewer than 3,000.
"There's a lot of history to the countryside-the writer John Steinbeck spent time in Bruton, which was one of his favorite places to write," Alice Workman, the director of the new venue, told A.i.A. in a phone interview. "The history of King Arthur is located quite nearby, and Stonehenge isn't far." Workman has been with Hauser & Wirth since 2012. Previously she worked at Southampton City Art Gallery as head of exhibitions.
Three of Hauser & Wirth Somerset's five gallery spaces will be in former barns, Workman said, and two will be in newly built gallery spaces conceived by Paris architect Laplace & Co. and built by Somerset-based architects Benjamin + Beauchamp.
While very much a commercial gallery, Hauser & Wirth Somerset will have a profile something more like that of a public arts center, Workman said, with an education program, artists' residencies and public events. Programming will range from artists' talks and director and curator tours to poetry readings and musical and theatrical performances.
The new venue will be supported by a staff of about 30, divided evenly between the restaurant and the gallery.
The space will allow Hauser & Wirth Somerset to do simultaneous exhibitions. For example, Phyllida Barlow's show will use four buildings, and the fifth will house an exhibition devoted to the drawings of the gallery's landscape architect, Piet Oudolf, also known for his work on New York's High Line.
Asked whether the locals are concerned about increased traffic, Workman told A.i.A. that on the contrary, "They want it to open tomorrow, they're so excited. We've made every effort to make sure they are part of the project. We always look to our neighbors for suppliers and services."