2020 at Somerset House

28 Jan 2020

Built on historic foundations, we are dedicated to backing new ideas, fresh perspectives, and nurturing creativity in all of its forms. As we embark on a new decade, explore what's in store for the year ahead at Somerset House as we announce a bumper 2020 programme.

The Horror Show!

Roll up, roll up to Somerset House this autumn for The Horror Show!, an exhibition celebrating those who are drawn to the dark side. Featuring Gareth Pugh, Gazelle Twin, Noel Fielding, Pam Hogg, David Shrigley, Ben Wheatley, The Fall's Mark E. Smith, Jamie Reid and Derek Ridgers, these mavericks take inspiration from the fiendish, freakish and phenomenal to tell a tale of modern Britain. Presented in three acts, Monster, Ghost and Witch, the exhibition will travel from 1970s punk to modern witchcraft today, exploring how the subversive is constantly re-shaping British cultural identity.

A female skateboarder mid-air performing a trick on a skate ramp
'Aimée Gillingwater, No Comply', Southbank 2018 © Jenna Selby
A drawing of a giant monster standing on house with a red roof
Monster on a Nice Roof - Jamie Reid

No Comply: Skate Culture and the Community

This summer, we present No Comply, a free exhibition exploring the phenomena of skateboarding and the impact of its culture and communities on the UK across the past 40 years. Through the work of leading filmmakers, photographers and designers, No Comply celebrates the UK’s vibrant and diverse skateboarding scene, documenting the influence the subculture has played in reimagining the cities, spaces and culture which surrounds us.

Arrivals + Departures, YARA + DAVINA
Arrivals + Departures, YARA + DAVINA

Arrivals + Departures

Before we opened our doors to the public and establised ourselves as London's Working Arts Centre, Somerset House was the home to records of Births, Marriages and Deaths and archived the wills of the nation. 8.5 miles of vaults held documents written by luminaries from William Shakespeare to Jane Austen, and even an egg, after one Briton put the entirety of their estate on an eggshell, which was carefully stored on site.

It's now been almost 50 years since the General Register Office left Somerset House, and we'll be honouring this unique heritage with a special series of public art installations and events. We'll be asking artists to investigate and interpret the incredible stories of our ancestors and imagine how we could also become inspirational ancestors for future generations looking back at our lives in years to come.

Opening on 3 April, Arrivals + Departures by artist duo YARA + DAVINA takes the recognisable form of an arrivals and departures board, but instead displays the names of people submitted by the public as a way of celebrating a birth (arrival) or commemorating a death (departure).

Throughout spring and summer, Public Search Room will be stationed inside the Seamen's Hall, site of the original public records search room, providing an introduction to the building's previous life. Courtauld Institute of Art's MA Curating students will stage their summer show in response to the captivating subject, and in March, Somerset House Studios Curator-in-Residence Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura curates and hosts an intimate dinner in the atmospheric Deadhouse beneath our courtard, exploring the themes of birth, death and marriage though taste, sound and communion.

Dinner table in The Deadhouse at Somerset House
Dinner in the The Deadhouse


If you've not experienced an event in our iconic courtyard, make this the year you do. We're already dreaming of warmer months so can't wait for Somerset House Summer Series with American Express and Film4 Summer Screen, back this July and August to make it a summer to remember. And of course, London's most beautiful ice rink returns to The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court in November. Excited? We are.

Sign up to our mailing list for access to our subscriber pre-sale for our courtyard events. The line-up for this year's Somerset House Summer Series with American Express is announced and tickets on sale in March.

People watching a film on an outdoor cinema screen at Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House
Film4 Summer Screen, image by Matthew Kaltenborn
Crowd lit up by stage lights at Somerset House Summer Series with American Express
Somerset House Summer Series with American Express


London's all-night contemporary art festival celebrates its fifth anniversary this year by returning to the sites of its first edition: The Strand and the Northbank of the River Thames. We can't wait to be part of the festival again, which this year takes its title from the Prince song made famous by Sinead O'Connor: Nothing Compares 2U. Artists taking part will take insporation from defiance in small acts and moments of self-determination, in everyday life, politics and literature. Stay tuned for the full programme, to be announced this spring.


We welcome back London's biggest international art events in the year ahead, including Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition in April, Photo London in May, the London Design Biennale curated by Es Devlin in September and 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in October. The ever-popular festival of experimental game design Now Play This returns for another jam-packed edition in April. First up, though, is Collect, a new event for our calendar this year, showcasing the best in contemporary craft and design from 27 February to 01 March.

London Design Biennale 2018


We partner with MUTEK festival and British Council to host the second edition of Amplify in the UK, a residency programme supporting women and non-binary artists working across the digital arts and electronic music in Argentina, Canada and the UK. Connecting a burgeoning network of artists and producers, it culminates in two days of installations, presentations, panel discussions, DJs and live performances introducing some of the America’s best talent to the UK for the first time, alongside the London premiere of a major new audio-visual work co-commissioned with Abandon Normal Devices Festival.

In the autumn, we'll celebrate four years of Somerset House Studios by throwing open the doors for AGM, offering rare access to hidden spaces of our building for a night of performances, installations and DJs led by the artist community.

Finally, the third edition of experimental music season ASSEMBLY will explore the idea of spatial sound. Working with Studios resident Call & Response, five artists will have the chance to develop their expertise in this new immersive sound technology before debuting five new live commissions from 13 - 15 November.

ASSEMBLY 2019, curated by Christian Marclay

We can't wait to welcome you to Somerset House this year.