ART

Hauser & Wirth’s Somerset Gallery Recasts the Pastoral as Political

In this new show, more than 150 works call into question our relationship with the land.

Marcus Coates, "British Mammal Shits," 2012. (Photo: Andy Keate. Courtesy Marcus Coates and Kate MacGarry).

In 2014, the art gallery Hauser & Wirth transformed a rundown 18th-century British farmhouse into its Somerset showroom, recasting the rural property’s future. This reimagining of pastoral life continues in the gallery’s forthcoming exhibition,“The Land We Live In—The Land We Left Behind,” opening Jan. 20. From the activist artwork of Chicago’s Sweet Water Foundation collective, which combines art and agriculture in community-building projects, to Marcus Coates’ bronze-cast animal feces titled “British Mammal Shits,” more than 150 works interrogate our romanticized past and uncertain future with the land.

“The countryside is trivialized in many ways; understood to be beautiful and nothing else,” says curator Adam Sutherland. “What I’m trying to do through this exhibition is say the rural is this very complex, intense, rich culture that has an awful lot of influence in the world, and has awful lot to give.” Art about rural life, Sutherland says, contains perspectives on history and urbanization and the inescapable power of Mother Nature; the exhibition, then, “is about politics and alternative visions for life.”

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