Spring-Summer 2018 at Somerset House

Somerset House celebrates its own artistic community, with exciting collaborations across site over the spring-summer season

  • Major courtyard installation by Anglo-Korean artist duo Kimchi and Chips brings the sun down to earth
  • New exhibition on the power of print – the history and state of the independent magazine scene today from Private Eye to gal-dem documented – including a special weekend festival, with hands-on opportunities to make and meet the people behind the front cover
  • Photographic portraits of the pioneers of R&B, Funk, Soul, Afrobeat and Hip Hop in The Influence Project
  • Celebrating 250 years of circus, with free contemporary performances in the courtyard in July and August
  • Annual highlights return: Summer Series, Film4 Summer Screen, games festival Now Play This and inspiring stories in Unorthodocs


12, 26, March; 9, 23 April; 7, 21 May
£10/8 Screening Room
The fifth annual series of Unorthodocs celebrates documentary at its most remarkable, innovative and provocative. The series of award-winning, internationally acclaimed feature documentaries is curated by Somerset House based film producers Dartmouth Films. This year’s films include, among others: The Work, following a four-day group therapy retreat with convicts at Folsom Prison; Machines, observing workers’ struggles within a gigantic textile factory in Gujarat, India, and 2016 Sundance Film Festival hit Gleason, charting former NFL football player Steve Gleason’s chronicle of life with ALS and his creation of a video journal for his unborn son.

All films are followed by a discussion and Q&A involving directors, producers or other key people from the production.


Now Play This
6 - 8 April  – £8/6.50 – River Rooms – Tickets on sale online from mid-February

The three-day games festival returns as part of the city-wide London Games Festival, with a host of hands-on activities for all ages. This year, Now Play This explores international experimental game design, from the 1990s to the present day, that focuses on identity and place.

Visitors can play inside or out, on screens or tables, join in workshops or make games for themselves. Highlights in this year’s edition include: Videogamo's Dobotone, where four players compete on a console while a fifth person takes on the role of the powerful ‘Game Remixer’ and can change the
rules of play in real time; a weekend-long Flatgames workshop, encouraging people to draw pictures to get digitised and added into one giant game, and new game The Loss Levels from BAFTA award-winning digital artist Dan Hett, based on Hett’s own experiences after his brother Martyn was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing last May.

Werkflow: Sovereign
6  - 29 April  – Free  – New Wing

Coinciding with Now Play This, Somerset House Studios artists Werkflow will exhibit a playable demo of new video game Sovereign. Sovereign inhabits the body of a boy in his mid-teens, taking place between two worlds - a wartorn ‘game world’ and a real-life suburban landscape linked to his inner imagination. Created in collaboration with young people at Somerset House, Sovereign explores the power dynamics of British culture, as teenagers attempt to navigate questions about their position of assumed sovereignty and state of mind.

With support from Arts Council England and Somerset House Studios.

2018 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition
20 April - 6 May  –  £8 - £14 – East and West Wing Galleries – Tickets on sale at worldphoto.org/2018exhibition

This April, contemporary photography returns to Somerset House with the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition

Featuring inspirational works by more than 600 artists, the exhibition will showcase winning and shortlisted works from the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards, the world’s most diverse photography competition.  Curated by Mike Trow - ex-Picture Editor of British Vogue - the images are specially selected from a record-breaking 320,000 submissions. The 2018 Awards will cover a wide variety of genres, from architecture to landscape, street photography to wildlife, portraiture to travel. 

The exhibition will also include an exclusive selection of unique works by a renowned international artist who will win the celebrated Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award.

The Unseen: Choropleth
A new flag commission from 22 April Free Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court
Celebrating World Earth Day 2018, Somerset House will raise a flag which reflects in real-time the impact of pollution and climatic changes in the environment around Somerset House.  Created by T H E U N S E E N, a material craft and innovation studio founded by Lauren Bowker which started life at Somerset House, the flag uses revolutionary inks which react to triggers such as temperature, light and air quality.  The design and colours of the flag will transform over time, according to the changes in the city.

In 2016, Somerset House initiated a series of commissions with artists to design its iconic flag, flying over its famous courtyard, with former flag artists including Jeremy Deller and Somerset House Studios artist Larry Achiampong.  This significant commission provides access to free public art for audiences from multiple vantage points across London.


Photo London
17 -
20 May – From £22 – Across Somerset House – Tickets on sale at photolondon.org
Photo London 2018 will showcase the very best of the past, present and future of photography, with emerging artists presented alongside new work by established masters and rare vintage pieces. The fourth edition of the Fair will include more than 90 of the world’s leading galleries, with a special exhibition from the 2018 Master of Photography,

Edward Burtynsky, who will present new and rarely-seen images exploring the complexities of modern existence. An expanded Discovery section will showcase new and emerging galleries and artists.

Public Programme highlights include a new version of the installation Unwavering Vision, an interactive multimedia presentation by Alan Govenar, Jean-Michel Sanchez, and Julien Roger, presented by The International Center of Photography (ICP); a solo exhibition of work by multimedia artist Darren Almond, presented by White Cube; and Sun Pictures Then and Now: Talbot and his Legacy Today, an exhibition presented by Photo London and Hans P. Kraus Jr., with original prints and negatives by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), the British inventor of photography, together with contemporary works by Adam Fuss, Cornelia Parker, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Vera Lutter and Mike Robinson.


World Illustration Awards 2018 Exhibition
6 June -
20 June Free Embankment East
The World Illustration Awards Exhibition returns to Somerset House this summer, showcasing the best work by international emerging and established illustrators.  The exhibition features all 200 projects shortlisted by a jury of industry professionals, alongside in-depth presentations of each category winner.  For the first time, this year’s exhibition will feature the work of legendary illustrators, including Quentin Blake, who have an enduring influence on the industry. Accompanying the exhibition will be an events programme of talks, industry masterclasses and family-focused events in collaboration with Walker Books.

Delivered by Somerset House resident The Association of Illustrators in partnership with the Directory of Illustration.

Kimchi and Chips: Halo
8 - 27 June – Free – Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court

Kimchi and Chips: Halo invites audiences to look at one of London’s favourite public spaces through a new magical lens.

Anglo-Korean artist duo Kimchi and Chips has been commissioned by Somerset House to create a new installation for its neoclassical courtyard.  Around 200 mirrors will reflect the light of the sun through the mist of Somerset House’s famous fountains to ‘draw’ a shape of light suspended in the air. Bringing the sun down to earth will depend entirely upon the light of the day, creating an experience which constantly appears and disappears. 

Kimchi and Chips: Halo follows the tradition of large-scale, open-air works over the spring-summer season at Somerset House, with former installations including Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads and John Gerrard: Western Flag.

Halo is co-commissioned by Arts Council Korea and Arts Council England Joint Fund and 2017 Gwangju Design Biennale.  Presented by Somerset House with the Korean Cultural Centre UK.

Print! Tearing It Up
Independent British magazines changing the world
8 June -
22 August – Free – Terrace Rooms – Part of Charles Russell Speechlys Terrace Rooms Series
This summer, Somerset House will explore the history and impact of the British independent magazine scene today in Print! Tearing It Up.  Curated by writer Paul Gorman (The Story of The Face, In Their Own Write: Adventures In The Music Press) and Somerset House’s Senior Curator Claire Catterall, the exhibition charts the evolution of polemic and progressive print publications and celebrates the current diverse industry of innovative independent magazines. 

Many of the magazines address the unspoken issues of the day, including diversity, gender, sexuality and media manipulation.  Beginning with BLAST, the Vorticist journal produced in June 1914, the exhibition traverses the pacifist Peace News of 1930s, the biting satire of Private Eye (first published in the 1960s and still Britain’s best-selling current affairs magazine), the seminal feminist magazine founded in the 1970s Spare Rib, the cult-pop phenomenon of The Face in the 1980s and 90s and the D.I.Y zines created by teenage feminist collectives into the new millennium.

Burying the belief that print is dead, the number of niche magazines is booming in Britain with the likes of gal-dem and Mushpit launching in the past decade.  Print! Tearing It Up will focus on the contemporary market of magazines, looking at the latest line of publishing pioneers.  It will examine demand for print in a digital era and envisage the future of these independent titles.

21 -
22 July – £6 – River Rooms and Lancaster Rooms – Tickets on sale online from mid-May
As part of Print! Tearing It Up, Somerset House and Somerset House Studios residents OOMK, who produce a biannual publication focused on women, art and activism, will present PROCESS! - a weekend festival on 21 and 22 July celebrating and interrogating the making of independent media, in an age of infinite information.

The greats and the grassroots of the industry will come together to host hands-on workshops and talks, sharing insights on the collaborative process of independent publishing and giving visitors the chance to create something to change perspectives themselves.  In addition, a zine fair, featuring 40 stalls, will allow audiences to discover something different.

A call for entries for contributors will be released on Somerset House’s website on 1 March, with submissions closing on 1 April.

The Influence Project
27 June - 22 August – Free – East Wing Galleries
The Influence Project
features never-seen-before photographic portraits of pioneers of R&B, Funk, Soul, Afrobeat and Hip Hop.

Congolese, London-based photographer Alexis Chabala and producer Lorayne Crawford have captured the characters of both icons and contemporary artists, from George Clinton, Shuggie Otis, Bill Withers and Candi Staton to Mark Ronson, Michael Kiwanuka, Aloe Blacc and Laura Mvula, both of whom have previously performed as part of Summer Series at Somerset House.

The Influence Project will investigate the connections between these established and emerging pioneers, reaching across time to shape the sound that we hear today.  Portraits will be accompanied by quotes and details from artists who have been influenced by them, highlighting the history and the significance of their music throughout the generations. 

The show will also include a new film featuring artists talking candidly on camera about their inspirations and a unique soundtrack will fill the gallery floor.


Summer Series at Somerset House with American Express

5 July - 15 July – Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court – Line-up announced on 20 March and tickets on sale online from 23 March
In one of central London’s most spectacular gig locations, Summer Series at Somerset House with American Express returns to the courtyard from 5 - 15 July.  An established part of London’s festival scene, the eleven-night series brings fans a stellar line-up of established and emerging artists. The world-class talent showcased each year reflects Somerset House’s commitment to curating a mix of both international and homegrown artists. 

Produced in partnership with Live Nation.

Circus Sampler
28 -
29 July & 4 - 5 August – Free – Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court
Celebrating 250 years since Philip Astley pioneered circus in London in 1768, Somerset House and Somerset House-based creative producers Crying Out Loud present two summer weekends of distinctive contemporary circus, hip hop dance and music.  All performances will be free to see on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

On the first weekend, new work Union Black fuses the signature fast-paced footwork and physical floor work of experimental hip hop collective Far From The Norm, with the strength and skill of an international group of circus artists on Chinese Pole and tightwire.

Trailblazers Gandini Juggling will perform a special commission, Cascade, within the rise and fall of the 55 water jets in the fountain courtyard over the second weekend.  30 jugglers will send balls - large and small - flying and weave mesmerising patterns in the air to the rousing sound of brass music played by Circa Tsuica, a band of French musical acrobats.

With the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.  Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.


Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House

9 - 22 August – From £17 – Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court – Line-up announced and tickets on sale online from mid-May
Each August, Somerset House’s neoclassical courtyard becomes London's most beautiful open-air cinema – Film4 Summer Screen. A highlight of the city’s summer calendar, 2018 will see a host of premieres, critically acclaimed titles and cult classics, some with special guest appearances, screened under the stars on a state-of-the-art screen with full surround sound.  The popular Behind the Screen programme will also return, with unique insights into the craft of cinema from illustrious industry talent.  Former Behind the Screen talks have featured actor Richard Ayoade, director Ben Wheatley and four-time Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood.

Launched in late 2016, Somerset House Studios offers multi-disciplinary artists affordable workspace and opportunities for research, collaboration, creation and presentation of work across Somerset House.

In spring 2018, Somerset House Studios welcomes seven new artists to its community, including film makers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard and visual artist Koo Jeong-A.  From 1 April, these arrivals and all other Studios residents will be able to take advantage of a brand-new music studio.  Repurposing an isolated space of the former Inland Revenue offices, the newly-created studio will enable recording and small-scale rehearsals, and support the musical and sound art strands of Somerset House’s programme.

As ever, audiences can engage directly with some of the Studios artists through its events programme.  Highlights of the spring-summer season include Imran Perretta’s The Listening Party and public artworks about The Navy Board at Somerset House.

Imran Perretta’s The Listening Party
Imran Perretta’s The Listening Party series kicks off in April with Emptyset’s Paul Purgas journeying through his influences and inspirations, followed by Nabihah Iqbal – previously known as producer Throwing Shade  –  in May.  The Listening Party series culminates in an one-off event in Somerset House’s Deadhouse in July, with a curated line-up and exclusive sets from the participating artists and additional guests.

The Navy Board at Somerset House public artwork programme
Somerset House is commissioning Studios artists to create public artworks exploring the Naval history of the site. 

Before the building of the Victoria Embankment, the Thames used to flow straight into Somerset House.  As such, it proved the perfect location from which the Royal Navy could both keep close to the administration of the day and set sail towards the British Empire.  For 80 years from the end of the 18th century, the Royal Navy occupied one third of Somerset House (with Lord Nelson’s office being based in the building).

The Studios artists are able to draw on any aspect, from life on board the ships, the Royal Navy’s relationship with the Slave Trade or the secret Naval symbols situated in the architecture of Somerset House itself, to inspire their works.  The first piece will be shown from May 2018.

New for 2018, Somerset House has launched its ‘Studios Shop’, offering a unique and unusual range of items, designed and handcrafted in the heart of Somerset House by talented Studios artists and Makerversity members.  Hard to find anywhere else on the high street, the curated ‘Studios Shop’ selection includes sustainable jewellery from Coal Store, scented candles from Simpson & Sand and the world’s smallest emergency phone charger from Nipper.

In April 2018, a brand-new tote bag – the ‘Studios Shop’’s very first special commission – will be revealed and will become available exclusively on-site.  A new product will be chosen for each new commission to create a truly limited collection for Somerset House.

These products – along with its popular assortment of unique cards and books covering all corners of contemporary culture –  is available on-site at Somerset House and online at somersethouseshop.com

Bryn Williams at Somerset House

This March, celebrated Welsh chef Bryn Williams opens his first London restaurant in a decade, located in Somerset House’s South Wing. Bryn Williams at Somerset House will offer modern British dining, serving seasonal dishes where – although not necessarily vegetarian – the fruit and vegetables will take centre stage. With a relaxed, contemporary environment, the food, service and design will reflect the creative values of Somerset House’s community.

Williams’ menu will focus on sustainability, seasonality and provenance. Fruits and vegetables will be stars of the show, with plates including the likes of Roast young broccoli, olive tapenade, sage beignet, scorched Cornish mackerel, and Pickled mooli, black garlic, raw apple, sage, Cumbrian beef. A range of salads and dishes ‘from the grill’, will also be on offer, alongside signature, fruit-heavy desserts.

The interiors of the restaurant, overseen by Rosendale Design, aim to unite the building’s naval history with Williams’ Welsh roots. Herringbone flooring and Welsh-printed upholstery will be met by colours of textured blue, with nautical details including lights made of Fresnel lenses from lighthouses. The space will also house a draught beer bar, the only one on the site, with statement overhead copper casks. Open from 10am, the bar and restaurant will serve as a hub for Somerset House’s resident creative community and wider visitors.

Conceived in Sweden and born in Bermondsey, Hej (meaning ‘hello’) brings its authentic neighbourhood coffee shop vibe to Somerset House, serving speciality coffee from a Woolwich-based roaster and the best of British produce, all made fresh on site, including salads, sandwiches, pastries as well as fresh juices and smoothies. Hej serve all their drinks in 100% compostable takeaway cups for customers who don’t yet own one of their reusable ‘Keepcups’.

The Somerset House Terrace Bar presented by Peroni Ambra
With sweeping views across the London skyline and riverside location, The Somerset House Terrace Bar will return in partnership with Italian brew masters Peroni Nastro Azzurro.  From April - September, The Somerset House Terrace Bar presented by Peroni Ambra will encapsulate the spirit of Italian summer, from a carefully curated aperitivo menu and freshly cooked pizzas to its open-air design.

Bryn Williams at Somerset House, Hej and The Somerset House Terrace Bar presented by Peroni Ambra join other established onsite eating and dining offers at Somerset House –a Fernandez & Wells outpost open day and night, serving a regularly-changing menu as well as coffee and pastries and a selection of ‘natural’ organic wines, Pennethorne’s café and bar and critically acclaimed Spring by Skye Gyngell in the New Wing. Following on from the success of the sustainable Scratch Menu, launched last year to raise awareness on food waste, Gyngell has recently announced plans to reduce plastic in 2018 with the aim to be completely plastic free by the end of the year.


The Courtauld Gallery & The Courtauld Institute of Art

This spring-summer, The Courtauld Gallery presents two exhibitions in The Drawings Gallery: Antoine Caron: Drawing for Catherine de’ Medici (until 15 April 2018) and Artists at Work (3 May – 15 July 2018), an exhibition focused on depictions of artists’ studios, as well as depictions of the self or others at work. From 14 June to 15 July 2018, students from The Courtauld Institute of Art’s MA Curating the Art Museum programme open their annual exhibition, drawing from major artworks from The Courtauld Gallery collection and the Arts Council collection.  

King’s College London

The Classical Now
2 March -
28 April – Free – Inigo Rooms & Bush House
The Classical Now is a major exhibition pairing the work of modern and contemporary artists with classical Greek and Roman antiquities, presented in partnership with the award-winning Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins (MACM). Staged across two spaces at King’s, the Inigo Rooms in the East Wing of Somerset House and the Arcade at Bush House – a new space for exhibitions and events at King’s College London.



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About Somerset House
Inspiring contemporary culture
A unique part of the London cultural scene, Somerset House is an historic building where surprising and original work comes to life. From its 18th-century origins, Somerset House has been a centre for debate and discussion – an intellectual powerhouse for the nation. Somerset House is today a key cultural destination in London in which to experience a broad range of artistic activity, engage with artists, designers and makers and be a part of a major creative forum – an environment that is relaxed, welcoming, and inspirational to visit while providing a stimulating workplace for the cultural and creative industries. 

Since its opening in 2000, Somerset House has built up a distinctive outdoor public programme including Skate, concerts, an open-air film season and a diverse range of temporary exhibitions throughout the site focusing on contemporary culture, with an extensive learning programme attached. In October 2016, Somerset House launched Somerset House Studios, a new experimental workspace connecting artists, makers and thinkers with audiences. The Studios provide a platform for new creative projects and collaboration, promoting work that pushes bold ideas, engages with urgent issues and pioneers new technologies. Somerset House is also one of the biggest community of creative organisations in London including The Courtauld Gallery and Institute of Art, King’s College London Cultural Institute and over 100 other creative businesses. It currently attracts approximately 3.4 million visitors every year.   www.somersethouse.org.uk