Hauser & Wirth Somerset the next Guggenheim?

April 3, 2014

Zurich, New York, London Somerset? That’s right, by summer 2014 the farm you see below will have been transformed into a futuristic gallery and the next big thing in the art world

A roofless, stone dovecote stands, sentry-like, on a hill an unusual, evocative landmark for the quiet, historic Somerset town of Bruton. The river Brue ripples through its heart. A tiny post office, a couple of pubs, a shop and a clutch of antiques and gift outlets populate the main street, off which is the disarmingly named Sexey’s Hospital a quadrangle, chapel and almshouses, founded in 1638. Bruton built its wealth on wool then silk and farming. Today, its economy is driven by a combination of agriculture and education, and the population hovers, daintily, around the 3,000 mark. Change is afoot, however. The arrival of a contemporary art gallery could, very possibly, turn Bruton into an international tourist destination.

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I stayed here several years ago, reviewing a newly converted self-catering coach house. I still remember stepping out, into frosty darkness, in search of a takeaway. The town’s silent desertion was such a contrast to city life come nightfall. I walked past narrow townhouses and the odd, mud-spattered 4WD. Steep, narrow alleys, called bartons, ran from the main street down to the river, along which I returned (clutching a Chinese). How clear the night sky was, the stars enchantingly bright, and I sensed, as my feet crunched on the ground, that I had fetched up in a rather special place.

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