We stopped at Hauser & Wirth on our way down to Cornwall on Friday which made a refreshing change from our usual National Trust courtesy stops.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset is a pioneering contemporary gallery and arts centre which allows visitors to experience art and architecture amid the stunning Somerset landscape.
As we walked from the car park to the farmstead you could sense the delicious aromas coming from the Roth restaurant which was packed with people and fully booked. No problem as we had a picnic which we ate sitting at a picnic table on the adjacent new allotment site beneath towering sunflowers. The cloudless sky of the bluest blue and the enfolding Somerset hills dotted with sheep made for a very relaxing lunch away from the hurly burly of the restaurant and visitor reception area.
Coming back into the farmstead I was immediately arrested by the juxtaposition of shiny modern art against the mellow stone of the old Durslade Farm buildings. Outside the restaurant large rusty galvanised containers were planted up very effectively with grasses, herbs and flowering perennials and an enormous raised vegetable bed which supplies the restaurant with produce was overflowing with goodness.
Within the cloisters a baby ‘Maman’ by Louise Bourgeois was towering above grasses interspersed with polished granite benches inscribed with text by the artist Jenny Holzer.
All the exhibition space comprising five gallery spaces is currently devoted to work by the American artist Jenny Holzer (1950 – ). Jenny Holzer is best known for using language to make art. Titled ‘Softer Targets’ this was a powerful exhibition using LED installations, human bones and paintings which blurred the boundaries between art and politics.
Into the garden and you could not fail to be impressed by the transformation of a one and a half acre field into a flowering perennial meadow in less than a year. The grass paths that snake through the planting were immaculate but closed to footfall after the recent heavy rain. The central hoggin path that runs from top to bottom was punctuated by regular elliptical domes of clover grass which I loved. The design and planting by Piet Oudolf was brilliant. Whether viewed from under a cloudless blue sky or lowering leaden grey cloud it shone in all its three-dimensional colourful glory.
At the beginning of the garden is a pond, flush with the surrounding hoggin path, its edges partly blurred by moisture-loving plants. And at the end of the garden is the creamy fibreglass Radic pavilion which appears to float cloud-like above the billowing buff-coloured meadow grass but when you get closer you realise it is firmly anchored on huge flat quarried stones. Inside a grey deck coils around and there are views out into the surrounding countryside.
All in all a refreshing change from Stourhead or Killerton and somewhere we will certainly visit again en route to the West Country. In fact we’ve already decided that we will stop there for afternoon tea on the way home. Certainly the Jenny Holzer exhibition will repay a second viewing and the garden was simply a wonderful space to be.