From Somerset to Menorca: Extraordinary art centre opens in Spain’s Balearic Islands

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AFTER five-years in the making, contemporary and modern art gallery masters, Hauser & Wirth, this summer opened an art centre on Isla del Rey off the coast of Menorca.

The 40,000 square metre island is only a short boat ride from the Menorcan capital of Mahon and now home to an extraordinary art centre featuring works of the acclaimed artist Mark Bradford.

In the last two years Isla del Rey’s once-crumbling decommissioned naval hospital, 18th-century outbuildings and 6th-century basilica were carefully restored by Argentinean architect Luis Laplace, turning the once ghostly ruins into an exhibition space with eight galleries, a shop and restaurant called Cantina

Outside, landscape designer Piet Oudolf, responsible for the garden at Hauser & Wirth’s Somerset base, curated the land.

Here, visitors will find a beautiful sculpture trail featuring works by artists such as Franz West, Louise Bourgeois and Eduardo Chillida.

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The 40,000 square metre island is only a short boat ride from Mahon. Credit: BeCreative Menorca

The gallery’s co-founders, Iwan and Manuela Wirth, said they had been ‘utterly captivated by Menorca and specifically Isla del Rey’ which they described as ‘nothing less than spectacular’. 

“Our vision has always been to expand the idea of the gallery experience and we believe that this location is a fitting, natural and exciting extension to our centres in Somerset and LA,” said Iwan.

It’s hard to conceive of a more fitting location for an exhibition of new paintings and sculptures than from the American artist Mark Bradford, the winner of a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant and is known for excavating the past through his abstract art.

On the choice of Bradford for the opening show, which will run until October 30, Manuela said: “Mark knows the Balearic Islands well having lived in Mallorca for a few months in his 20s and his multi-layered nature is a perfect fit given the island setting is in a natural harbour.”

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Artist Mark Bradford at the inauguration of the art centre. Credit: Hauser & Wirth

Hauser & Wirth’s popular rural Somerset gallery was both the key and inspiration for the Menorca project, both in terms of its remote location and gardens.

Somerset was also the reason why the pair were first invited to Isla del Rey by the president of the Hospital Foundation’s board, Luis Alejandre, who had read avidly about their internationally acclaimed art centres.

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The gallery’s co-founders said they had been utterly captivated by Isla del Rey. Credit: BeCreative Menorca

Since Menorca is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Hauser & Wirth Menorca partnered with the island’s Preservation Fund, a foundation that supports local environmental initiatives.

The art centre has also established local partnerships with Escola d’Art de Menorca and Museu de Menorca among others, as well as inviting local vineyard and restaurant, Binifadet, to run Cantina, where seasonal produce is sourced.

At the time of its inauguration, the mayor of Mahon, Hector Pons, said the art centre would have a ‘positive impact on the economy in a project that preserves the historic buildings and sensitively connects with this special place’.

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