This Summer, Somerset House will transform its Terrace Rooms into the Headquarters of The Learned Society of Extra-Ordinary Objects. With creative inspiration from the venue’s own history, The Society’s ‘Club Room’ will set the scene for an immersive and ‘unique design exhibition centred on imagination, narrative and storytelling…’.
30 designers, artists and makers have been invited to become the new, 21st Century Fellows of the Society – and to create or contribute objects worthy of such a society’s collection. The objects can either be everyday objects with Extra-Ordinary stories, or modifications to familiar objects which are both surprising and playful. Among those chosen are British sculptor Richard Wentworth; ceramicist Richard Slee; Scottish-Indian artist Jasleen Kaur; jewellery-maker Hans Stofer; as well as furniture designer Max Frommeld.
According to Somerset House, the fictitious Society’s backstory is told thus:-
‘… The Learned Society first took up residency at Somerset House back in the 18th Century, where the Fellows would gather around the Club Room’s gin bar, presenting everyday objects or curios to one another and discussing their extraordinary possibilities.’.
The collection of objects was unfortunately lost as a means to pay off the Society’s accrued debts.
The process of drawing inspiration from Somerset House’s history – including the residencies of the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Arts – lifted the veil on the ‘discovery and inquisitiveness’ of actual, bygone club members, gathering in the ‘National Building’ to discuss artistic advancements and creative discoveries.
The exhibition’s curators – British furniture designer Carl Clerkin and artist Danny Clarke – are exploiting the opportunity to further their analysis of the potential of design. Previously, their work has been exhibited at Shoreditch Design Triangle and the London Design Festival. The Somerset House exhibition brings these past shows together, examining design, functionality, everyday objects and storytelling in a unique and engaging way.
This Summer, the Society’s Gin Bar will be re-opened as a backdrop for visitors to get into role, exploring and exchanging views on the 21st Century objects, just as the original Fellows did. The bar will hold special events across the season, and will be supported by the first London gin distillery to open since the 1800s – Sipsmith.
Two special evening events will take place on 18th July and 8th August, during which the Gin Bar will serve Sipsmith’s gin; William Warren‘s ‘The Prince of Whales’ band and DJ Phoebe Morris will use ordinary objects in their sets; and Jasleen Kaur will provide mouth-watering culinary offerings as accompaniments. These events will be free but ticketed, with places being booked through the Somerset House website.