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New Art Hot Spot: Messums Wiltshire

New Art Hot Spot: Messums Wiltshire

Messums Wiltshire, an innovative new art space housed in a vast 14th century tithe barn in Tisbury opens next weekend (24 & 25 September).

Celebrating the best of handmade art and craft in the South West, Messums Wiltshire will hold cross genre exhibitions featuring sculpture, art, dance and music as well as hosting an extensive arts education programme which aims to inspire local school children.

The project was born after a conversation between Johnny Messum and the Fonthill Estate’s Lord Margadale, who was in the process of restoring the famous barn (it has the largest thatched roof of any building in the UK).

Johnny says: “I thought that the idea of a wedding venue was maybe not the best use for it and that opening an art centre would be a really amazing way of celebrating the craft makers we have here in the South.’


Messums Wiltshire is an offshoot of Messums London, the Cork Street gallery, which was set up in 1963 by Johnny’s father David, specialising in British Impressionism and the Newyln and St Ives schools of painters.

The new art centre is focusing on the artisan and hand-made kicking off with a Bronze and Stone exhibition featuring three South West artists. Tim Harrisson has created a sculpture from the Chilmark Quarry which originally supplied stone when the barn was built in the 14th century.

Bridget McCrum has created her largest piece to date for the exhibition, Crescent Birds (pictured above), which is inspired by her passion for the ancient artefacts of Mesopotamia.

Dominic Welch, who draws on the shapes and symbols of the Paleolithic era, has also cast his largest bronze for the show, Rising Form.

Historically you’d be hard pressed to find a more appropriate setting for an art centre. In 1935 a piece of Tisbury Coral, unique to the hills behind the barn, was discovered with the remains of the 400,000 year old Swanscombe woman. Much later in the 18th century a Henge is said to have been removed from the site and taken to nearby Wardour Castle.

Alongside the new gallery is a café and bar, serving its own blend of locally roasted coffee and cocktails made from spirits such as Dorset’s Liberty Fields apple vodka.

Johnny is clear that Messums Wiltshire is not trying to recreate the Hauser & Wirth experience with its thriving restaurant scene. More he hopes it will  become a cultural hub for locals, a place to sip martinis (or a glass of wine, supplied by the Beckford Bottle Shop), catch up on news and take a hit of contemporary art at the same time.

The scope and aspiration of the project is huge.

Johnny has brought in the art shop Green & Stone to provide artist materials and starting next Spring, respected local artists will begin landscape classes for adults. The idea is that you drop into Green & Stone, pick up whatever you need and head outside for tuition amidst the backdrop of Tisbury’s rolling hills.

Each exhibition will also have a supporting workshop with the relevant artists offering an insight into their particular art form and guidance for amateurs on how to get started.

Most exciting is the proposed scheme for local schools. In the new year the Art Centre intends to spend a day each week  teaching the art of making and creative endeavour to primary schools. Privately funded by a Patron scheme children will have tuition across all craft mediums, again taught by well known local artists.

.Johnny says: “There is not a a great deal of art teaching in primary schools and there should be. Art is one of our key industries and this is the next generation of artists.’

Messums Wiltshire opens its doors 24 & 25 September with the fully immersive experience, a performance from dancer turned ceramicist Stephanie Buttle and demonstrations from master wood turner Robin Wood.

Up next in December comes Presence, a 3 part exhibition on human form feauturing dance, sculpture and sound. Part one 24,25 & 26 November sees Sadler Well’s Russell Maliphant bring his latest work Piece No 43.

Messums Wiltshire also plans to collaborate with Hole & Corner, the specialist artisan and craft magazine, a spot on pairing. The zeitgeist magazine celebrates the beauty of pure workmanship and regularly features SW based artists, sculptors and ceramicists.

More information on Messums Wiltshire here

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