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David Roberts to close London space and open sculpture park in Somerset

Scottish collector hopes to attract a bigger audience in the countryside than in Camden

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The Scottish collector David Roberts is closing his gallery in London and plans to open a publicly-accessible 20-acre sculpture park in Somerset, west England. The move is the first in a series of regional initiatives, says Roberts, that will take his collection to new audiences. 

Roberts, who runs a property development company in London, opened his Camden-based gallery, the David Roberts Art Foundation (Draf), in 2012. A former furniture factory built in the 19th century, it was enlarged in 2015 to include a “live projects” annex dedicated to performance art. Arts Council England has supported the space through a series of funding awards.

The final show in the space, (X) A Fantasy, featuring works by Theaster Gates and Danh Vo, is due to open next month (8 September-7 October). Roberts will continue with a London-based performance programme, presenting the annual Evening of Performances—held during the week of the Frieze art fair—at different venues in the capital. Draf will subsequently take over the Koko music venue in Camden on 3 October, when new commissions by Laure Prouvost and DJ Nkisi will be unveiled.

“We’ll still continue to do things in London, like the Koko event. And we are looking to do more regionally; I’m a big admirer of the Artist Rooms initiative [founded by the dealer Anthony d’Offay]. The sale of the London venue, which is funded mainly by me, means we can take on more projects,” Roberts tells The Art Newspaper.

Meanwhile, Roberts plans to open a sculpture garden in 2019 on Somerlea Farm in Charlton Musgrove pending approval from the local council. The new venue, which will be free to enter, will house up to 20 sculptures. Sculptors represented in the collection include Hans Josephsohn, Kris Martin and Sarah Lucas.

“The property in Somerset will be non-commercial. We will show things from the collection there, and start new projects,” Roberts says. “We hope to attract a wider audience in Somerset; we think we’ll have more visitors there than in London. We don't get huge numbers of people through the door in Camden.”