In its 27 years, Studio Voltaire has never had an investment quite like this one. The inspiring not-for-profit arts organisation, which produces pioneering exhibitions, projects and events as well as supporting artists with much-needed studio space at pivotal moments in their careers, has finally reopened after a £2.8 million refurbishment.
The redesigned space, in South London, has been created by the architects Matheson Whiteley – their first public project in the UK – and has revolutionised Studio Voltaire's offering, both to the public and their artists. There is now 42 per cent more space for the more than 60 creatives working there, as well as kitchens, workshops and two residency studios which will host a new international programme. This is a timely expansion, when so many artists studios are closing, especially since the pandemic.
One of the key studio spaces is dedicated to the organisation Action Space, which supports artists with learning disabilities and neuro-diverse thinking, and has been working with Studio Voltaire since 1999.
New public spaces include a high-beamed gallery (in a Victorian former mission hall), a revived café, a shop and spaces for year-round educational workshops. There is an inviting garden at the front of the studio, designed by Anthea Hamilton, which invites visitors to experience all the space has to offer, with iron gates in a twisting onion design replacing the high, insurmountable black gates that preceded them.
There is also an extraordinary permanent public commission with a difference. Collaborative artists Joanne Tathom and Tom o'Sullivan have created The Institute For The Magical Effect Of Actually Giving A Sh** – a bold, colourful, tiled masterpiece that forms, yes, the toilets for Studio Voltaire. Vibrant and witty, it is a gorgeously thoughtful and beautifully constructed work with more than a sprinkling of humour.
The studio opens to the public on Friday 15 October and the inaugural exhibition is a major collection of works by William Scott. It is the first significant retrospective of his 30-year-practice, featuring more than 70 paintings, drawings and sculptures ranging from the 1990s to the present day, most of which address the ideas of identity and community in the Black American experience.
"Studio Voltaire is committed to supporting artists and this significant and timely transformation enables us to do this at a greatly increased scale," says the director Joe Scotland. "This is a hugely exciting time for the organisation and the communities in which we work."
For more information visit studiovoltaire.org.
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