Somerset House Studios: A new experimental workspace for artists, makers and thinkers.

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Charles Jeffrey, Somerset House Studios, Image by Dan Wilton

Today Somerset House launches Somerset House Studios, a new experimental workspace for artists, makers and thinkers in the centre of London. Situated inside Somerset House’s New Wing,it aims to meet the changing creative needs of today’s artists and address the acute shortage of affordable and secure studio space, which has seen an accelerating exodus of artists from London due to rising rents and redevelopment

Somerset House is transforming 36,000 sq ft of former Inland Revenue offices to establish over 35 shared and solo occupancy studio, rehearsal and project spaces, which will accommodate around 100 artists. Somerset House Studios is also home to Makerversity, a workspace for professional makers with cutting edge workshops, which was born in 2013 with backing from Somerset House. In total, the initiative will enable the work of over 300 artists, makers and thinkers in the heart of one of the world’s most creative cities. Reflecting Somerset House as a centre of contemporary culture with a focus on cross-disciplinary work, the residents will cover all forms, including visual art, music and composition, performance, dance and live art, fiction and non-fiction, fashion, film and those working at the intersection of art and technology. 

A small group were selected to pilot Somerset House Studios over the past few months. They include fashion designers Gareth Pugh and Charles Jeffrey, musicians Anna Meredith and LoneLady, visual artists Christian Marclay, Katie Paterson and Larry Achiampong, Internet artist LaTurbo Avedon, experimental architecture studio Minimaforms, performance artists Project O, writer Juliet Jacques and Forest Fringe co-director Deborah Pearson. They will be joined by up to 25 new arrivals in 2017, who will be selected through an open application process, launching on 26 October 2016.   

In addition, 8 dedicated event and exhibition rooms will host a new strand of programming driven by the Studios, including work produced on site, to some of the 3.2 million people who already visit Somerset House every year.

Jonathan Reekie, Director of Somerset House, said:

“We believe that by giving over space to some of the best artists, makers and thinkers in the centre of the city, we will be doing three vitally important things. “Firstly, we will be making a new kind of space that is needed to support the practice of today’s artists, who are thinking and working in very different ways across artistic disciplines. Secondly, we feel strongly that artistic talent should not be marginalised and driven out of the city, but has a place in one of London’s iconic buildings. Thirdly we want the brightest new creative voices to be experienced by a bigger audience. “We want Somerset House Studios to be a vital and vibrant landmark for Somerset House and London’s artists and audiences.”

Offering residencies for a focused period of artistic and professional development of up to two and a half years, it will champion a diverse community who pioneer experimentation, provocation and collaboration, and fully represent the arts in the UK today. The Studios rental will be calculated using a base rent equivalent to the London average for artist workspace rate, as identified by the Mayor of London in 2014. With a commitment to invest in the future of the UK’s leading artists, Somerset House’s subsidies and long lease on the site will provide security to the Studios residents.

To celebrate the launch of Somerset House Studios, a free exhibition will feature work by some of the first Studios residents. Open to the public from 27th October to 6th November, Studio 01 will explore the practices and concerns of some the UK’s brightest creative talent who are now based on site at Somerset House. Covering themes of behaviour, identity and construction in the virtual and physical world, highlights include artist avatar LaTurbo Avedon’s virtual nightclub and fashion designer Gareth Pugh’s sculptural installation of The Tempest’s Sycorax to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

Inés Cámara Leret, an artist who turns DNA into tangible objects, will show her Memory Stone imprinted with participants’ breathes, and design practice Superflux will present a fictional court case Dynamic Genetics vs. Mann, whose suite of evidence set in a laboratory imagines the implications posed by a world of mandatory health insurance, genetic risk profiling and backstreet gene-fixing. Studio 01 will additionally comprise works from Larry Achiampong, Memo Akten, Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Minimaforms, Deborah Pearson, Erica Scourti and Werkflow. Further details of the Somerset House Studios public programme will be announced in November 2016. Somerset House Trust is grateful to supporters of the Studios including Westminster City Council, Garfield Weston Foundation, Foyle Foundation and Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement. 

Somerset House Studios residents currently include: Aisha Zia,Anna Meredith,Buckley Williams, Caroline Williams, Charles Jeffrey, Chloe Lamford,Christian Marclay,Deborah Pearson, Eloise Hawser,Erica Scourti,Estela Oliva, Gareth Pugh, Graham Dunning, Inés Cámara  Leret, Jennifer Walshe, Jessica Rinland,  Juliet Jacque,  Katie Paterson, Larry Achiampong, LaTurbo Avedon, LoneLady, Makerversity, Matthew Plummer,Fernandez,Mel Brimfield, Memo Akten, Mind the Film, Minimaforms, Paul Purgas, Phoebe Boswell, Project O, Strange Telemetry, Superflux, Unmade, Workflow.

www.somersethouse.org.uk/somerset-house-studios

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper' AofC - Issue 1 Autumn 2018