What is a dream studio or retreat for an artist? Judging from a new exhibition, it can be anything from an old converted reservoir to a mountain eerie to your traditional urban attic: even if nowadays this tends to be a cavernous, severely minimal one. With a dozen projects in the show, each beautifully tailored to the needs of its user and designed by nine different practices from Argentina, Germany, England, Italy and Switzerland, it seems that living the artistic life no longer need involve starving in a freezing garret these days.
With architects sometimes accused of being head-in-the-clouds dreamers – complaining of philistine clients who don't understand their artistic visions – what happens when an artist is the client? And when the usual relationship between architects and artists is that of the former commissioning the latter for an artwork to fit into or onto a building (all too often as a last minute percent-for-art fig-leaf designed to add a bit of artistic integrity to a bad building) – what happens when this relationship is reversed?
In today's overheated contemporary art world, plenty of artists are no longer starving in garrets, and more and more have not just the wherewithal for an absinthe or two, but are even in a psoition to commission their own houses and studios. Indeed in the UK, with many of the newly rich Young British Artists moving out to the countryside and sinking their cash into property like the 19th century industrialists before them – take Damien Hirst with his huge pile at Toddington Manor in Gloucestershire or Anthony Gormley with his Norfolk country house – they have been dubbed “the new artocracy”.
However a new exhibition that opens this week, explores examples of rather more original, unusual and inspired studios, houses and flats, designed by nine different practices, including augustinundfrankarchitekten, Brinkworth, ModusArchitects and Sauerbruch Hutton, for artist clients including Dinos Chapman, Katharina Grosse, Karin Sander and Ugo Rondinone.