Art and culture

The first time I saw … Somerset

Gallerist IWAN WIRTH on getting inspired by a rural corner of England

There’s a certain magic that runs through Somerset in England.

In 2005, my wife Manuela and our family moved to London from Switzerland to open the first UK outpost of our contemporary art gallery, Hauser & Wirth.

Having three young children who grew up in rural Switzerland, we spent one of the first weekends exploring the countryside in search of a place as a weekend base. By chance we took a trip down to rural Somerset. As the First Great Western train pulled away from London Paddington, we soon came to the skies and the breathtaking hills of the Cotswolds.

Our destination was the Saxon town of Bruton. Little did we know that this unassuming place would become our new home. (No wonder the American writer John Steinbeck spent six months in this magical place.) By the time we went for a walk in the nearby woods of Stourhead, we were sold.

Over time we came across a collection of derelict 18th century farm buildings in the surrounding fields and farmlands. Manuela and I, architect Luis Laplace and landscape genius Piet Oudolf hatched a plan to restore these ruins and create an arts centre far away from the urban art world of our other projects. And Hauser & Wirth Somerset was born. Here, at our new home, we could bring together all our passions: art and artists, certainly, but also architecture, education, food, landscape, conservation and nature.

Iwan Wirth is the co-founder of Hauser & Wirth. Its Hong Kong outpost opened in March.

hauserwirth.com

Iwan Wirth, London, 2015
Katharina Lütscher

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