Art house

 

Durslade Farm is home to a world-class gallery, breathtaking gardens and the most characterful farmhouse we’ve ever seen. It’s easy to see why Hauser & Wirth Somerset is one of the hippest places to hang out in the South West. . .

Photography: Kasia Fiszer    Words: Kate Authers

 
 Summer Party poster in the kitchen 

Summer Party poster in the kitchen 

 The Paul McCarthy bedroom with chocolate Santa wallpaper

The Paul McCarthy bedroom with chocolate Santa wallpaper

 

When contemporary gallerists Iwan and Manuela Wirth fell in love with an 18th-century farm in rural Somerset and decided to transform its dilapidated buildings and abandoned ruins into a global arts destination, it had somewhat of a transformative effect on the quiet, historic town of Bruton. An incredibly personal story, built around the key pillars of community, history and landscape, Hauser & Wirth Somerset invite visitors to join them in continuing to build its narrative, which might explain its enduring wide-spread appeal. Garden fanatics, art appreciators, interiors aficionados, aesthetes, foodies, lovers and friends will all be in their element.

One of our favourite, less-explored parts of the farm, which would make the ideal holiday home, party house, or weekend bolthole, is Durslade Farmhouse. 

The building has been sensitively restored with the help of Paris-based architect Luis Laplace. It’s full of character and history, many of original fittings remain, while vintage furniture, sourced from local shops and salvage yards, adorn the rooms. Inspired by the colours in the stripped back walls, bedrooms are painted in complementary colours and dotted with flea market finds and fragments of old wallpaper. Each has a loose theme, from the Pipilotti Rist bedroom – a vision in pink, and named after the first artist in residence here – to the brass bedroom with its distinctive chintzy wallpaper and extraordinary brass bed, and Niki and Jackie’s bedroom at the top of the house, so called after two sisters who used to live here with their family. The latter is by far the most serene space in the house, which is probably what makes it especially popular with bridal parties. 

Durslade Farmhouse is lived in and luxurious, reassuringly nostalgic and every room tells a story. In the Paul McCarthy bedroom, the artist’s vibrant turquoise wallpaper features chocolate Santas, which appear to be carrying Christmas trees, until you look closely and see that these Santas are quite a lot more suggestive than that. 

 Guillermo Kuitca’s striking wall art in the dining room

Guillermo Kuitca’s striking wall art in the dining room

 The Pipilotti Rist bedroom.  Phyllida Barlow,  Untitled: fence/bunting, 2006  © Phyllida Barlow courtesy the individual artists and Hauser & Wirth

The Pipilotti Rist bedroom. 
Phyllida Barlow, Untitled: fence/bunting, 2006
© Phyllida Barlow courtesy the individual artists and Hauser & Wirth

The abundance of contemporary art is similarly in evidence downstairs. Pipilotti Rist spent a year in Bruton during her residency here, and in that time she created a site-specific projection for a wall in the living room. It runs along the visible line of the original staircase, over a hanging sculptural installation made from gathered fragments of glass and china acquired from the Victorian dump just over the hill, which she retrieved with the help of Iwan and Manuela’s children. It’s these artistic touches that captivate you for hours, making the need for more modern distractions, such as TV, entirely redundant.

The dining room too, painted by Argentine artist Guillermo Kuitca is wonderfully dramatic. He spent weeks painting directly onto the walls, the results of which change with the light throughout the day. Even the palettes that he used for painting are mounted on the walls, providing an extra visual link to the narrative. 

There’s an all-black and mustard bathroom (among others) and no shortage of kitsch fixtures and quirky oddities throughout, but the traditional farmhouse kitchen at the heart of Durslade Farmhouse is where everyone naturally gathers. Popular with the down-from-London crowd, or locals looking for a special place to celebrate, part of the brilliance of this holiday pad is that you’re right in the middle of the Hauser & Wirth site.

 Downstairs master bedroom: Phyllida Barlow,  Untitled: streetleaningobjects , 2011, © Phyllida Barlow, courtesy the individual artists and Hauser & Wirth

Downstairs master bedroom: Phyllida Barlow, Untitled: streetleaningobjects, 2011, © Phyllida Barlow, courtesy the individual artists and Hauser & Wirth

Field of dreams

One of the best parts of any visit to Hauser & Wirth Somerset, whatever the season, is wandering through Oudolf Field and admiring its seamless sense of place within the farmland and the English countryside as a whole. World-renowned Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf’s brief from Iwan was ‘absolute freedom, with no compromise,’ – something that also rings true with the gallery artists – and it was his intention to create a garden that was secret from the outside world, only revealing itself once you’ve entered the gallery. For us, it’s almost as enjoyable to take in the vista while sitting under the modernist colonnade with a coffee, but that would be to miss out on the feeling of walking through a real wild meadow and touching the grasses with your fingertips. 

Wide paths lead you past a pond area, cleverly hidden from view until you’re in the garden itself, before opening out into drifts of colour. It’s perhaps most admired under the glow of the late Summer sun, but it’s also magical when the bare stems and seed heads cast their shadows against a frosty winter backdrop. Walking through the field is made all the more pleasurable by the sight of Smiljan Radić’s pavilion at the top of the hill, perched on rocks like an alien spaceship. Seemingly built from a more durable version of papier-mâché, it’s actually used as a super-cool events space. 

 The mesmerising Oudolf Field; Photo by Jason Ingram, courtesy Hauser & Wirth

The mesmerising Oudolf Field; Photo by Jason Ingram, courtesy Hauser & Wirth

Movement and motive

The main attraction for many – maybe after enjoying Sunday lunch surrounded by contemporary art in Roth Bar & Grill, or sipping an Espresso Martini at the bar – is to fully absorb the internationally-renowned artworks and the changing programme of outdoor sculptures dotted throughout the grounds. 

Next up, from 26 May – 9 September, is a major solo exhibition by the late American sculptor Alexander Calder. Considered one of the most influential and pioneering artists of the 20th century, Calder is perhaps best known for his colourful, abstract public sculptures and his innovative mobiles, which move in response to air currents or motor power.

The exhibition, From the Stony River to the Sky runs through all five gallery spaces – with over 80 pieces, including important early sculptural works and large-scale outdoor works, the majority of which have never been exhibited in the UK before –and takes its inspiration from Calder’s long-time home and studio in Roxbury, Connecticut. 

“He was this incredible personality who lived and breathed his work in a very humble and quite humorous way,” explains Rosie McAllister at the gallery. “The exhibition that we’ve got here is going to really shine a light on him as a man and his whole way of life.

“As well as these monumental sculptures, incredible public commissions and mobiles, he would make things as simple as an ashtray, beautiful intricate jewellery or spoons; he was prolific and people don’t necessarily know that side of him.” From what we’ve
seen so far, the next chapter in the Hauser & Wirth story looks bright, playfully intriguing and lots of fun.  

hauserwirthsomerset.com