This weekend I went along to a preview for the recently-completed house for the artist Brad Lochore – designed by Tony Fretton Architects. It’s a rather strange experience going to these architect house previews – it’s not quite an exhibition private view…it feels more like a cross between a restrained house party and an estate agent’s tour of a show-home. Tony Fretton also designed the Lisson Gallery and a house for artist Anish Kapoor (currently enjoying a retrospective at the Royal Academy). Presenting an oasis of calm, Fretton has incorporated a system of large skylights to allow generous amounts of daylight to flood into the studio space (left) which dominates the ground floor. It was fascinating to see that for this viewing Lochore had left all of his painting paraphernalia in place, untouched – as if suddenly interrupted. Nothing had been hastily tidied up, stored or cleared away. To have this privileged glimpse inside an artist’s creative work space, especially to see it in quite an unadulterated form was quite an interesting experience. It got me thinking about what potential there might be in our ’1:1′ exhibition, to allow one of the commissioned structures to actually operate as a working studio, perhaps inviting a number of artists (and writers?) to take up residence in these spaces (micro-residencies?). It would be something quite unique (but maybe a little too weird?) to offer our audiences. It is one thing to allow the public an insight into the working practices and the working enviornment of an artist/writer – but this needs to be tempered with sensitivity to the fact that artistic endeavour often needs to be a very private, self-reflective experience. Of course, we would need to also be conscious of how the commissioned architects feel about having their structures used in this way. It might end up as a bit of a ‘point & look’, zoo-like experience, which I’m sure we would all want to avoid. But the idea is something worth considering at least, as we develop the programming around the exhibition.
The idea of inviting artists to take up residence in an unfamiliar environment is something that The Wapping Project have done quite well recently. Over the last few weeks (as part of the London Design Festival) they have invited a number of artists/organisations, including Blueprint Magazine (below) and the shoe designer Tracey Neuls (right) to set up shop in their backroom exhibition space (the beating heart of the former hydraulic power station). This room, by default, is quite a retreat-like space anyway – very much incubated from the noise, smells and hustle & bustle of the main restaurant area at the front of the Wapping Project. Inserting these temporary residencies has worked quite well I think, in a space which is normally very contemplative – and seemed (at least to me, as a visitor) to offer an environment with the required level of calm, peace and quiet. Having said that, the Blueprint team – who were frantically trying to edit their November issue during this little intervention – may disagree with me!
The V&A tends not to have the luxury of quiet spaces in our main exhibition areas (mainly due to our high visitor numbers) – so it remains to be seen whether we could pull off something like this ourselves. I should also add that the best ‘retreat’ in the whole of the Wapping Project is without doubt their fantastic little bookshop (below), run by Lydia Fulton – which is housed in a pragmatic little greenhouse. I think I recall Lydia once saying that they simply bought the greenhouse off the internet – no fussy architetcural commissioning involved at all! She even has a fully-functioning wood-burning stove…something which I think Terunobu Fujimori is planning for his ’1:1′ structure in the Daylit Gallery. Watch this space!