David Roberts Art Foundation Retreats to the Country, Leaving London to Launch Somerset Sculpture Park

The beloved non-profit is overhauling its program in an effort to seek "new and broader audiences.”

David Roberts. Courtesy of Billie Scheepers.

The David Roberts Art Foundation (DRAF), one of London’s best-loved non-profit art spaces, plans to close its Camden exhibition space and open a new sculpture park in Somerset.

“As we look beyond our 10th anniversary year, this felt like the right time to make the change,” Vincent Honoré, DRAF’s director and chief curator, told artnet News.

First launched in Fitzrovia in 2007 as the brainchild of the Scottish collector David Roberts, the foundation moved to a larger north London space in a former factory in 2012.

Over the past five years, DRAF has presented work by artists including Huma Bhabha, Nina Beier, and Oscar Tuazon, while its annual Evening of Performances quickly emerged as one of the must-see events of Frieze Week.

Installation view of “Streams of Warm Impermanence” at DRAF, 2016. Photo Tim Bowditch, courtesy DRAF.

Installation view of “Streams of Warm Impermanence” at DRAF, 2016. Photo Tim Bowditch, courtesy DRAF.

A press release issued today frames the closure of DRAF London as the start of a new era for the foundation on its 10th anniversary. The non-profit plans to partner with regional institutions across the UK, tour works from the collection, and host pop-up events beyond the capital “with the aim of reaching new and broader audiences.”

“In the past few years we have presented critically acclaimed exhibitions of the collection outside London and the UK. This, and the ongoing popularity of our annual Evening of Performances programs have influenced this decision,” Honoré says.

DRAF’s new UK-wide program will be funded by the sale of the Camden exhibition space—a prime piece of London real estate that could begin to lose value after the start of Brexit.

The final exhibition at DRAF London, “(X) A Fantasy,” will open on September 8 and showcase new commissions and existing works by 24 artists, including Helen Chadwick, Theaster Gates, Tala Madani, and Danh Vo.

Vincent Honoré. Photo: Mary Ashton Ellis.

DRAF’s director and chief curator Vincent Honoré. Photo Mary Ashton Ellis.

Honoré says the organization will maintain an office and a presence in London after the Camden space closes for good on October 7. The team will continue to present ambitious performances in the city, like this year’s Frieze Week event, an evening of back-to-back performances at the legendary London music venue KOKO.

Perhaps following the lead of Hauser & Wirth—which opened its own gallery on the outskirts of Bruton in 2014—DRAF is now looking for greener pastures in southwest England. The foundation is developing a 20-acre sculpture park in Somerset that is scheduled to open in 2019. 

Once the refurbishment by Moxon Architects is complete, the park will display sculptures from David Roberts’s collection—including works by Anthony Caro, Mark Wallinger, and Ai Weiwei—in the open air for the first time. David Roberts and his wife Indre purchased Somerlea Farm, where the sculpture park will be located, in 2014.

Melike Kara, Love Story (2017). Courtesy the artist and David Roberts Collection London.

“DRAF was founded to be an organization that would constantly reinvent itself, which could activate the collection, and use it to inspire unique projects and commissions,” David Roberts said in a statement. He also praised the foundation’s staff, who have welcomed more than 100,000 visitors to the London spaces.

Roberts added: “I hope that this new direction will allow us to build on the success of our London programs, and take them to more places than ever before.”

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