Somerset House Studios: A new workspace that enables artists to stay in London
This autumn, Somerset House is to launch 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 square feet of former Inland Revenue offices to establish over 35 shared and solo occupancy studio, rehearsal and project spaces, which will accommodate around 100 artists. It 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, eight 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.
Somerset House has a long tradition in supporting new generations of artists and thinkers with the Royal Academy of Arts and other Royal Societies being the first occupants of the 18th-century Strand site. Since becoming a charitable Trust and reopening to the public in 2000, Somerset House has become home to over 100 cultural and artistic organisations including The Courtauld Gallery and Institute and The Cultural Quarter at King’s College London.
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.”
To celebrate the launch of Somerset House Studios, a free exhibition will feature work by some of the first residents. Open to the public from 27 October to 6 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. Discover more at www.somersethouse.org.uk.
Via Creative Boom submission | Main image of Charles Jeffrey, courtesy of photographer Dan Wilton