The original Somerset House was a Tudor palace commissioned by the Duke of Somerset. In 1775 it was demolished to make way for an entirely new building, effectively the first purpose-built office block in the world. Today it houses a formidable art gallery (the wonderful Courtauld), a beautiful fountain court, a terraced café and a classy restaurant. Having replaced the Hermitage Rooms and Gilbert Collection on the river side of the building in April 2008, the new Embankment Galleries explore connections between art, architecture and design with a series of temporary exhibitions; downstairs a ceremonial Thames barge illustrates the venue’s history. In summer, children never tire of running through the choreographed fountains. Family workshops take place at weekends and holidays, and in recent years Somerset House has hosted an outdoor film screen in summer and a wonderfully atmospheric ice-rink in winter.
|Venue name:||Somerset House|
|Opening hours:||Daily 10am-6pm|
|Transport:||Tube: Temple/Charing Cross/Covent Garden|
- Set in the mountainous frontier wilderness of the colony of New York in 1757, this charts the role played by Hawkeye (Day Lewis) in the complex war waged between the English and the French and their respective allies among both settlers and Indian...Read more
- Werner Herzog’s mad masterpiece from 1972 still has its hallucinatory charge. Its star, Klaus Kinski, terrorised his fellow cast and crew, and in its own way ‘Aguirre’ has become cinema legend (director Herzog says the only way he could keep Kinsk...Read more
- This near-perfect romcom gave an unknown actress called Audrey Hepburn her ‘hello world’ moment in 1953 – making her an overnight star at 24. Hepburn sparkles as Princess Ann, an elfin European aristo bored to tears of ambassador’s receptions and ...Read more
- Bruce Robinson’s film about two resting actors thrown together in London at the fag end of the 1960s, didn’t make much of an impression at the box office when it was released in 1988. But a few years later it became a hit on video, with copies bei...Read more
- After the dismally miscalculated School Daze, Spike Lee returns to splendid form with a pacy, punchy ensemble piece set in Brooklyn during one stiflingly hot 24 hours. Lee himself plays Mookie, pizza delivery-man for Sal (Aiello) and his two sons;...Read more
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Beneath the Surface
Somerset House’s riverfront position is the inspiration for this, er, immersive exhibition of rarely-seen photographs from the V&A’s collection. Among the 200 works on show, you’ll see William Strudwick’s shots along the Thames from the 1860s and David...Photography Until Monday August 24 2015Read more
At last London gets its own photography-dedicated fair that will hopefully turn into an annual photo-fest week. Presenting a diverse range of photographic practices throughout Somerset House, the sixty plus leading international and London-based exhibitors...Photography Until Sunday May 24 2015Read more
Wild Life Drawing Family Day
Life drawing wouldn't ordinarily be suitable for families – there'd more than likely be some giggling – but when you replace the naked humans with fully feathered owls it suddenly becomes an altogether less blush-inducing activity. Larry the little owl...Saturday May 30 2015Read more
Things to do
Unseen Waterloo: The Conflict Revisited
This series of photographs created by Sam Faulkner documents the recent participants in the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo. The 80 life-size portraits of soldiers which were taken in a pop-up studio situated on the battlefield, hang against...Friday June 12 2015 - Monday August 31 2015 FreeRead more
Things to do
A Power Walk
From the monarchs to ministers, there's no doubting that London has long been in a fight for power, be that with the rest of the world or ourselves. This walk, led by Rosie Oliver from Dotmakers Tours, will take you on a mile and a half tour of the capital's...Friday June 12 2015Read more
The Jam: About the Young Idea
Paul Weller’s dapper mod-punk trio The Jam are the stars of a dedicated exhibition at Somerset House, which traces their progress from school in Woking to era-defining prominence in the late ’70s and early ’80s. ‘About the Young Idea’ includes items from...Friday June 26 2015 - Monday August 31 2015Read more
Consummate and cheeky entertainers, Chromeo are a Canadian Arab/Jewish duo who deliver big ’n’ bassy, squelchy and irresistibly funky electropop – like a Hall & Oates for the Justice generation.Thursday July 9 2015Read more
Somerset House Summer Series
The gorgeous eighteenth-century courtyard of Somerset House hosts another of its annual summer gig series. With neoclassical beauty on all four sides it takes a special music line-up to live up to the setting, but luckily the Summer Series has got just...Pop Thursday July 9 2015 - Sunday July 19 2015Read more
Gary Clark Jr
Supernaturally talented Texan rock guitarist Clark plays really sultry soul and dirty Deep South blues, and has jammed with stars from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Beyoncé and from Foo Fighters to Alicia Keys. He sells out headline shows every time he comes...Blues Friday July 10 2015Read more
Twinkling folk-pop singer Mike Rosenberg brings his easygoing strand of lighters-in-the-air tunes to town. He’s sold millions of copies of his sleeper hit ‘Let Her Go’, which should be the main reason for 80 percent of tonight’s ticket sales.Pop Saturday July 11 2015Read more
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Review for Boro
From the 17th - 19th centuries, Japan’s poor were allowed only to wear dark blue, brown and grey. Brighter colours were reserved for the wealthy ruling elite, as were luxury fabrics, like cotton. When the rich threw away their clothes, poor people gathered together the scraps and stitched them together to make bedspreads. The result (Boro) is the subject of this exhibition.
If this sounds niche to the point of obscurity, you’d be right. The exhibition offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of one of the world’s most insular nations. However, from an artistic point of view, there is little to be gained. These are scraps of fabric, dyed blue and hastily quilted together to provide relief from Japan’s cold winter nights.
In an attempt to justify the exhibition, or possibly to break up the monotony, the curator has overindulged considerably with the interpretation. A whole panel is devoted to how modern artists, name-dropping eight of them, could have been influenced by Boro (‘Paul Klee would have been delighted by them’) before acknowledging this did not happen. It’s worth a quick look if you’re at Somerset House, but definitely not worth a special trip.
Saw the Sony World Photo Awards here which was fantastic. The permanent exhibition is worth a look as well.
One of London's most innovative museums, I love the amount of thought they put into offering as much diversity as possible. There really is something for everyone (and many exhibitions are free) but it's also a great place just to sit and people-watch.
Indeed Somerset house has more happening then most people visiting London would realise. It is a true hidden jem which is ironic because it is also one of the larger buildings that are open to the public. A beautiful historic hosting some very up today events. As well as the family workshops a number of events for adults have been run in the evening which have been very well recived. An evening of no presure creative play with a glass of wine in one hand accompanied by sounds from chilled DJ's is a very plesent way to pass the time.