Leading non-profit arts organisation Studio Voltaire has announced that its permanent home in Clapham, south London, will reopen to the public in October 2021, following the completion of a transformative renovation project designed by architects Matheson Whiteley, whose past work includes Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London and Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, Germany, as well as artists’ studios for Ryan Gander, David Noonan and Goshka Macuga. Studio Voltaire will open with the first solo exhibition of San Francisco-born artist William Scott outside of the USA – the first significant survey of his 30–year practice.
While deeply rooted in personal history, Scott’s paintings address wider questions of citizenship, community and cultural memory. His portraits, predominantly of black figures, encompass African American political leaders, celebrities and pop icons, but also document members of his church, family, and residents of his native San Francisco. Scott’s practice at large reimagines the social topography of this rapidly gentrified city in works that combine architectural design with science fiction. The artist’s paintings instead propose new utopian buildings, neighbourhoods and civic agencies that together describe his compelling desire for a more equitable society. Studio Voltaire is partnering with Creative Growth Art Center, a non-profit serving artists with disabilities based in Oakland, California, to present this exhibition.
Studio Voltaire has also commissioned artists Anthea Hamilton and Joanne Tatham & Tom O’Sullivan to create a series of permanent installations for the building, providing opportunities for playful, unexpected and inspiring encounters with artworks embedded within and throughout the organisation. London-born Hamilton, who is a long–term resident of the local area and previously a studio holder at Studio Voltaire, will create an artist’s garden for the site, her first ever permanent work. This ambitious project, both an artwork and a garden, will form a new, welcoming public entrance to the institution. Hamilton has responded to the architecture of the Victorian chapel gallery, and references walled kitchen gardens, the bold geometry of 1970s design, handcrafted folk art and vernacular architecture. She is interested in how the garden will be used and traversed by visitors, creating informal seating areas and a stage-like platform alongside a new pedestrian entrance, which will further open up the site and better connect the organisation to its surrounding neighbourhood.
Elsewhere, British artists Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan have been commissioned to produce an installation across Studio Voltaire’s public toilets. The Institute For The Magical Effect Of Actually Giving A Shit (a note to our future self) includes bespoke, hand–glazed ceramic tiles which draw from Tatham and O’Sullivan’s key motifs, in particular staring, cartoon-like faces. Positioning their work within the context of a public toilet, the artists’ vibrantly coloured installation employs humour and the absurdity of the unexpected as a strategy for both disruption and generosity.
Studio Voltaire’s celebrated art and design shop, House of Voltaire, will have its first permanent home on the site; and ActionSpace, a leading organisation supporting artists with learning disabilities, will increase onsite studio provision and workspace. This is the most ambitious transition in Studio Voltaire’s 26–year history, which will significantly increase the amount and quality of support the organisation can offer to artists, as well as transforming how visitors experience their buildings and programmes, which will become more welcoming, porous and engaging. The scheme will create high–quality spaces for 75 artists and directly address the current citywide shortage of artist’s workspace.
Feature image: Anthea Hamilton, Leg Chair (Sushi Nori), 2012. © Anthea Hamilton. Courtesy the artist.