Somerset House's Summer 2021 Programme

Somerset House is delighted to present a summer season of inspiring culture and joyful shared experience, providing the perfect setting to reconnect with family and friends safely once more. Two spectacular installations can be explored in the open-air courtyard, a forest of 400 trees in June followed by a brilliant twist on the traditional fairground in July and August, whilst a taste of Spain will be transported throughout the summer to Somerset House’s River Terrace with its sweeping views of the Thames. A new exhibition celebrating skateboarding culture will be on show as the sport makes its debut at the Olympic Games, alongside the best of international design and photography with London Design Biennale and Photo London, and the latest works from some of Somerset House’s resident artists.



London Design Biennale ​
1 - 27 June​
From £22.50 ​

London Design Biennale returns this June for its third edition, welcoming a host of countries, cities and territories to​ highlight the role of design in addressing global challenges and crises. Taking over the entirety of Somerset House in a unique exhibition designed to entertain, inform and spark action, participants from six continents will respond to Artistic Director Es Devlin’s theme ​of Resonance, which considers the ripple effect of ground-breaking design concepts on the way we live, and the choices we make. ​

On the River Terrace, the Pavilion of the African Diaspora, designed by Ini Archibong, will provide a global stage for the voices of people born of the African diaspora, in an architectural folly. In the courtyard, Forest for Change – The Global Goals Pavilion will create a magnificent green landscape of 400 trees, offering a journey of discovery and interaction, with an installation in the central clearing of the forest, driving awareness of the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Designed by Es Devlin, in collaboration with Landscape Designer Philip Jaffa and Urban Greening Specialists Scotscape, Forest for Change is presented in partnership with Project Everyone. Inside Somerset House, Pavilions including Antarctica, Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Poland, Taiwan and Venezuela among others will explore issues from the pandemic to climate change, equality to migration, through international collaboration, policy making and communication. ​
This year’s Biennale will also present Design in An Age of Crisis, an exhibition of radical design thinking from the world’s design community, the public and young people, in response to a global Open Call created in partnership with Chatham House that attracted 500 submissions from over 50 countries across 6 continents. In addition, Sustainability and Innovation will consist of a series of installations by a selected group of universities, organisations, and brands demonstrating their contribution to these global issues through design. ​

July & August

Drink, Dine & Dodgems at Somerset House ​
15 July – 22 August 2021 ​
Free entry to site; £5 pp for dodgems, pre-booked packages available from £10​
Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court ​

Somerset House welcomes visitors this summer with Dodge, a thrilling new open-air experience in its spectacular courtyard. Taking inventive twist on the traditional fairground, Dodge features dodgems with a difference, bold installations from acclaimed artists, a delicious selection of food and drink, as well as weekend brunches with live DJ sets to kickstart those long summer days.  Throughout July and August, Somerset House’s large courtyard will be reimagined by Yinka Ilori, one of the most in-demand figures working in design, and transformed into a joyful spectacle of colour, sound and energy, featuring a range of brightly-coloured seating booths, perfect for outdoor gatherings with family and friends. ​

At the centre of this immersive courtyard installation will be a buzzy bumper car track, complete with artful dodgems that generate an interactive musical composition, titled Bumps Per Minute by award-winning Somerset House Studios artist Anna Meredith MBE, who has teamed up with fellow Studios resident and BAFTA-winning sound artist Nick Ryan. Providing a mouth-watering menu of food served straight to the Yinka Ilori-designed seating booths, culinary star Jimmy Garcia hosts a new pop-up, serving up summer favourites from street food to sundaes.  ​

Originally slated for the New Year, Dodge provides the perfect summer setting in the city to celebrate quality time with family and friends safely once more.  

No Comply: Skate Culture and Community ​
Monday 19 July – Sunday 19 September 2021  ​
Free ​
Terrace Rooms, South Wing 

This July, Somerset House presents No Comply, a free exhibition exploring the phenomena of skateboarding and the impact of its culture and communities on the UK over the past 45 years.  ​

Bringing together photography, film, fashion, design, independent print, and archive material from leading figures within the community, No Comply seeks to unpack the dynamic story of skateboarding in the UK, told through three enduring themes which define the subculture’s ethos: the city as playground, skateboarding communities and D.I.Y culture.  ​

From striking photography and new film commissions documenting the ways in which skaters reclaim and repurpose urban spaces into sites of creativity and play, to archive objects exploring the influence of skate wear on fashion culture from brands including Palace Skateboards and Louis Vuitton, visitors are invited to explore the creative culture which continues to define skateboarding’s vibrant communities today. The exhibition also shines a light on inspiring stories from the UK skate scene and beyond, from grassroots campaigns and non-profit initiatives working to help promote positive change through skateboarding, to collectives working to increase awareness around gender notions within the community.

Contributors include Brixton’s Baddest, Henry Kingsford, Iain Borden, Jenna Selby, Leo Sharp, Long Live Southbank, Louis Vuitton, Lovenskate, Lucy Adams, R.A.D Archive, Reece Leung, Richard Gilligan, Sam Ashley, Science versus Life, Skate Nottingham, SkatePal, Palomino, Wig Worland and Winstan Whitter.  ​

No Comply is curated by Tory Turk, from an original idea by Frankie Shea, with expert insight knowledge from acclaimed British skateboarder and Somerset House Visitor Experience Manager Helena Long. 

Gallery 31: Create, Capture, Organise, Pluralise  ​
1 July – 31 October 2021 ​
Free ​
Gallery 31, New Wing 

To mark its third season, Gallery 31 invites artists to explore the notion of the body as an archive of collective stories, experiences and memories in a new show entitled Create, Capture, Organise, Pluralise. ​

Featuring video, sculpture, sound and printed works from Josiane M.H. Pozi, Majed Aslam, Col Self and Ilona Sagar, Create, Capture, Organise, Pluralise, curated by Stella Sideli, explores the body as a site which holds both the past and present, where collective memories and stories are preserved, passed on, reinterpreted, and adapted. ​

In considering this discursive, imaginative terrain, the works in the exhibition articulate different bodily narratives. Josiane M.H. Pozi’s newly commissioned film Marlonsworld documents the mundane and profound daily existence of living bodies, whilst Col Self embodies the notion of temporality in the sculptural work Threshold Objects (dreaming of alterity from the inside of capitalist cultural form), a piece speaking to ritual and speculative practices. Majed Aslam traces the blurred line between wellbeing and addiction in a series of chemically altered photo works. Echoing this sense of ambiguity, Ilona Sagar’s Soft Addictions series taps into the relationship between technology and the body, abstracting the alternating lines between function and dysfunction as a bodily state through print and sound. ​

Gallery 31 is an exhibition space dedicated to platforming work by Somerset House Studios’ resident artists, and work developed through residency programmes.  ​

Create, Capture, Organise, Pluralise is presented with the support of the Adonyeva Foundation. ​


Photo London ​
9 – 12 September 2021 ​
Tickets on sale on 8 June ​
Site-wide ​

Shirin Neshat exhibition ​
1 – 12 September 2021 ​
Free until 7 September ​
Lower Embankment East Gallery ​

Photo London fair brings together the world's leading photography galleries, dealers and publishers, alongside emerging spaces and artists pushing the medium's boundary exhibited in the acclaimed 'Discovery' section.  ​
Usually held in May, the sixth edition of Photo London will exceptionally take place at Somerset House in September. This year, the fair will pioneer a hybrid model. The physical event at Somerset House will be complemented by an online fair, allowing exhibitors unable to travel to participate. ​
A special exhibition by the 2020–2021 Master of Photography, Shirin Neshat, will be presented as part of Photo London, which will be open from 1 September in anticipation of the fair’s arrival. The fair will also feature online talks and an exhibition dedicated to its Emerging Photographer Award winners, presented once again in partnership with Nikon. ​

Food & Drink

Somerset House Terrace with San Miguel ​
Opening 18 May ​

With its riverside location and views across the London skyline, the Somerset House Terrace with San Miguel will open again this summer, bringing a little taste of Spain to the banks of the River Thames. 

The sheltered and heated open-air bar takes inspiration from San Miguel’s Spanish origins, bringing a lively, warm and inviting atmosphere to the River Terrace - the ultimate destination to reunite with friends from sunrise to sunset.  

Guests will be able to enjoy San Miguel Especial as well as 0,0%. Gluten Free and beer cocktails will also be on offer at the Terrace bar. A delicious menu of small plates, inspired by San Miguel’s Iberian roots, has been specially crafted to perfectly complement the drinks selection.

e10 Café ​
Opening inside from 17 May 2021 ​
Walk-in only ​

Set just off Somerset House’s courtyard, the planet friendly café e10 champions sustainably designed plant forward menus for breakfast, lunch and mid-day treats. 

 Menus celebrate vegetables as the hero ingredients and use local sourcing where possible, including from Somerset House’s home-grown crops of mushrooms, however a small number of dishes feature British organic eggs and fish that is Marine Stewardship Council certified 1-3. The café’s ‘Coffee for Causes’ artisan beverages will also be available, where every hot drink purchased supports a wide range of charities from the Outside Project to Off the Streets.  The seed-to-plate philosophy extends to transparent traffic-lit menus to inform customers of the comparative volume vs footprint their food choice carries. ​

WatchHouse ​
Opening inside from 17 May 2021 ​
Walk-in only ​

For those missing a spot to relax with their favourite brew, Modern Coffee experts WatchHouse will welcome guests back inside WatchHouse Somerset House from 17 May.  ​

With tables already available in the courtyard to enjoy the takeaway fare, from mid-May seats can be taken inside this light-filled space inspired by the stunning neoclassical architecture of Somerset House. It’s the perfect place to grab a coffee; ethically sourced and roasted by WatchHouse, now with no extra charge for plant-based milk. Choose a delicious accompaniment from the equally well-sourced selection of House made savouries, pastries and newly launched WatchHouse Bakery. And as the warmer weather makes an appearance in London, stay refreshed with brand new WatchHouse Cold Brew Coffee and delicious iced coffees.  ​

Spring ​
Opening 19 May ​
Wednesdays – Saturdays, dinner only ​

Set in an elegantly-restored 19th century drawing room in Somerset House’s New Wing, Skye Gyngell's restuarant will open its doors once again, with an a la carte dinner menu, focussing on fresh, seasonal British produce, simply prepared. During the first hour of service, a scratch menu – made from overlooked ingredients that would often end up in food waste – will be available by reservation only.  From 5 June, Spring will be serving its more informal, Italian inspired Tavola menu on the first weekend of every month.  The seasonal set menu of delicious Italian-inspired dishes is priced at £30 per person. 

Highlights from Somerset House's Digital Programme

Art Night ​
18 June – 18 July 2021 ​
Online and UK wide ​

Somerset House partners with Art Night for its fifth edition, taking place for the first time this year in locations across the UK and online.  ​

For the first time unfolding across the month, the programme includes projects commissioned by Art Night and Somerset House, featuring Somerset House Studios artists Sonya Dyer, Imran Perretta & Paul Purgas, Philomène Pirecki and OOMK.  Each of these four projects will premiere online across Somerset House and Art Night’s channels during the festival.  ​

The 2021 festival, curated by Helen Nisbet, is titled Nothing Compares 2 U after the song written by Prince and famously performed by Sinead O’ Connor.   ​

Transforming iconic and unexpected public spaces, this year’s edition spans Scotland, England and Wales, and even further digitally, allowing the opportunity to access commissions, performances and interventions in villages, towns and cities as well as from home. ​

Sonya Dyer, Imran Perretta & Paul Purgas, Philomène Pirecki and OOMK are co-commissions by Art Night and Somerset House, with support from the Adonyeva Foundation ​

News from our neighbours

The Courtauld

The Courtauld is pleased to announce Series 5 of Open Courtauld Hour, its monthly digital miniseries on all things art history, providing pop-up talks, performances and in detail object study sessions that explore and celebrate The Courtauld’s collection, research in art history, curation and conservation. Upcoming episodes include Hair Moments (3 June) and A Night at the Theatre (3 July). ​

Open Courtauld Hour has been enjoyed by over 28,000 people to date and this series will showcase art historical research in light of the global pandemic and provide a platform for creative practice in the age of social distancing. Each episode also aims to provide a platform for a diverse range of both new and established voices. Read more about The Courtauld Research Forum summer events programme. ​

Open Courtauld Hour is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies. ​

The Courtauld Gallery will reopen late this year following a major transformation to restore its grandeur and create state-of-the-art facilities, which is supported by £11 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and generous donations from foundations, individuals and other supporters.​


London’s working arts centre  ​

Somerset House is London’s working arts centre and home to the UK’s largest creative community. Built on historic foundations, we are situated in the very heart of the capital.   Dedicated to backing progress, championing openness, nurturing creativity and empowering ideas, our cultural programme is ambitious in scope. We insist on relevance, but aren’t afraid of irreverence, and are as keen on entertainment as enrichment. We embrace the biggest issues of our times and are committed to oxygenating new work by emerging artists. Where else can you spend an hour ice-skating while listening to a specially commissioned sound piece by a cutting-edge artist?  ​

It is this creative tension—the way we harness our heritage, put the too-often overlooked on our central stage and use our neo-classical backdrop to showcase ground-breaking contemporary culture—that inspires our programme. Old and new, history and disruption, art and entertainment, high-tech and homemade, combined with the fact that we are home to a constantly shape-shifting working creative community: this is our point of difference. It is what we are proud of. And it is what makes the experience of visiting or working in Somerset House inspiring and energizing, urgent and exciting. ​