Field day: art and architecture collide at Albion Barn in Oxfordshire

Field day: art and architecture collide at Albion Barn in Oxfordshire

The verdant location of our July issue fashion shoot – photographed by Jeff Boudreau and styled by Harry Lambert – is Albion Barn, the Oxfordshire home and gallery space of art dealer Michael Hue-Williams.

The 50 acre farming estate in Little Milton has been in Hue-Williams’ family ‘forever’. He grew up there, and now works between the estate and London. In 2013, he commissioned architect Christina Seilern of Studio Seilern Architects, an old friend who he met while she was working for Rafael Viñoly, to renovate the 17th-century farmhouse complex into a home for his family, and for his art collection.

Hue-Williams opened his first gallery with an exhibition of Max Ernst, in partnership with Claus Runkel in 1988, designed by the future architectural stars Claudio Silvestrin and John Pawson. The latter went on to design two more galleries for Hue-Williams until Albion Barn was built for him by Foster + Partners in 2004.

Model Sami Younes with RIPPER, 2008, by James Capper (left) and Logo No. 134 (Outdoor swimming pool), 2016, by Richard Woods. See the full shoot here

He chose to redesign Albion Barn because he was looking for a more domestic and intimate setting to show his collection. ‘[Christina] knew the barn – I’ve known her for 25 years now, and I was just really interested to do something new and put a different spin on it,’ Hue-Williams notes.

Seilern converted the main barn into an exhibition space, divided into smaller adaptable sections such as a dining room and kitchen for entertaining, and a library, which is at the heart of the design. ‘The Albion Barn gave us an interesting opportunity to play with what a central space can do to the overall flow of the circulation. The library that morphs and changes with secret doors can connect and separate the gallery spaces as well as turning the library into an introverted space or a circulation route,’ says Seilern.

Yet, the art collection continues beyond the walls of the barn into what Hue-Williams describes as his ‘green gallery’, the grounds and countryside surrounding Albion Barn which has become a sculpture park including works by Bernar Venet, Vito Acconci and James Capper amongst others.

Hue-Williams has been slowly accumulating and increasing the sculptures, and his ambition it seems – he is working on planning permission for a small bridge and island that will house a pavilion designed by architect David Adjaye –  Hue-Williams has worked with Adjaye on projects from Munich to Chicago and the architect is currently working on redesigning his home in London.

Albion Barn was designed by Studio Seilern Architects

It is refreshing to see new works by emerging artist James Capper sitting alongside established names such as Bernar Venet and James Turrell. ‘I have known about him for a while,’ says Hue-Williams of Capper. ‘He is a remarkable sculptor and I wanted to present both ends of the contemporary spectrum, to do something new where people wouldn’t know the work so it could be an educational process. Some people do find the work hard to grasp.’ Hue-Williams is now working on a larger project by Capper – a touring, 60ft long, mechanical tug boat installation – with gallerist Hannah Barry, who represents Capper in London.

He is also working on international projects with artist Richard Woods, who designed the site-specific pool installation, seen in the W* fashion shoot. ‘I’ve worked with Richard a lot in the past and in fact was urged on by my wife Ali, who said we should do an artists project with him,’ says Hue-Williams. The coloured ceramic tiles of Woods’ work seemingly transform the pool into a punchy comic book-style illustration.

The gallery will soon host an exhibition of paintings by John Virtue opening on 1 July.

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