Firstsite is a visual arts organisation based in Colchester, Essex. Our mission is to make contemporary art relevant to everyone.
Our integrated programme of work includes projects, exhibitions and publications by established and emerging artists, as well as extensive learning opportunities and artists’ support initiatives.
Over the last fifteen years firstsite has gained a strong reputation by presenting ambitious work to new audiences in the East of England and beyond.
Firstsite’s new building was designed by the Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. His design was selected by a worldwide architectural competition that attracted more than 100 entries.
The crescent shape was created to wrap around the existing D-shaped garden of East Hill House, leaving intact the established arc of mature trees.
Its low-lying, single-storey design nestles in the landscape, with minimum disruption to Colchester’s historic roofscape.
Exhibition Spaces, shop and MUSA Café Restaurant
Tuesday - Sunday 10am – 5pm
Christmas Eve – open until 2pm
Christmas Day – closed
Boxing Day – closed
Saturday 27 December – open 10am – 5pm
Sunday 28 December – open 10am – 5pm
Monday 29 December – open 10am – 5pm (school holiday opening)
Tuesday 30 December – open 10am – 5pm
New Year’s Eve – open until 2pm
New Year’s Day – closed
Friday 2 January – open 10am – 5pm
Entry is free. Most events are free unless otherwise stated.
BRONZE AGE C. 3500 BC - AD 2018
- 17 March — 28 October 2018 *on now
Phyllida Barlow * Louise Bourgeois * Martin Creed * Alberto Giacometti * Diego Giacometti * Subodh Gupta * Eva Hesse * Jenny Holzer * Thomas Houseago * Matthew Day Jackson * Hans Josephsohn * Bharti Kher * Anna Maria Maiolino * Paul McCarthy * Gary McDonald * Fausto Melotti * Henry Moore * David Smith * Simon Starling * Ricky Swallow * André Thomkins * Will Thompson * William Turnbull * Mark Wallinger * David Zink Yi
BRONZE AGE c. 3500 BC – AD 2018 recreates a fictional Bronze Age presentation from a forgotten museum. An iteration of Hauser & Wirth’s satirical museological presentation at Frieze London 2017, the show has been curated specifically for Colchester – the earliest recorded Roman town in Great Britain. Conceived and originated by Dr. Neil Wenman in collaboration with Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, the exhibition focuses solely on works made of bronze or from the Bronze Age period. These include artefacts on loan from regional museums and private collections nationwide, sculptures by artists including modern masters Louise Bourgeois, Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore, and Fausto Melotti, along with Phyllida Barlow’s bronze cast paint sticks, Subodh Gupta’s bronze Mona Lisa, a cast bronze fist by Martin Creed, and Mark Wallinger’s spectacles.
The artefacts and artworks are separated into six themes: Domestic Life, Decoration & Adornment, Fertility & the Body, Religion & Burial, Trade & Agriculture and War & Battle, mimicking the curatorial choices of historical museum exhibitions.
Contemporary works of art and historical artefacts are mischievously mixed with miscellaneous bronze items purchased from eBay. Masquerading as archaeological finds, these invite us to ponder how the significance of an object can be dictated by context. Moving away from the traditional white walls of an art gallery, the presentation challenges expectations and highlights the power of display.
Institutions that have loaned works and objects to BRONZE AGE include: Bruton Museum, Somerset; Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, Shrewsbury; and David Roberts Art Collection, London. At Firstsite, objects have been incorporated from the ‘designated status’ collection of the Colchester and Ipswich Museums. A unique addition to the presentation at Firstsite will be the Berryfield Mosaic (c. AD 150), which will be located at the entrance of the exhibition. This mosaic masterpiece was discovered in Colchester in 1923 where Firstsite is now located, and is permanently installed within the gallery floor.
An audio guide voiced by Professor Mary Beard, available on iTunes, enhances the visitor’s ‘museum’ experience and suggests the decoding of the objects on view.
- Family friendly
Scott King: A New Life in Frigg
- 16 June — 2 September 2018 *on now
Firstsite, Colchester, is delighted to present A New Life in Frigg, an exhibition by the artist and graphic designer Scott King. In the show King invites visitors to the fictional town of Frigg, which is based on the former Butlins holiday camp at Clacton-on-Sea, Essex††. It is part of the artist's ongoing Butlins-inspired series Britlin's - a combination of the words 'Britain' and 'Butlins' - that plays with the power of collective nostalgia to reimagine a new society modeled on an idealised vision of the past.
A New Life in Frigg explores the idea of the 1970s holiday camp as utopian micro-societies, remembered through the colourful, hyperreal photography that was used on promotional postcards. Produced by the John Hinde Studio, these elaborately staged and cinematically lit images have informed the ironic euphoria of Britlin's' design vocabulary. Reinforcing the mythologising aspect, the four proposed Britlin's new towns are named after Anglo-Saxon gods: Frigg, Saxnot, Balder and Loki. Frigg is the goddess of love and wife of Odin, father of the gods.
The exhibition at Firstsite is informed by audio recordings and video footage held at Essex Records Office and the East Anglian Film Archives. It is comprised of a wall-based map of the proposed Frigg township, as well as questionnaires for visitors to fill out that set up satirical scenarios to consider one's suitability to join the Britlin's community.
Included is a new film commissioned by Firstsite for this exhibition, entitled Come to Frigg, which has been produced in collaboration with filmmaker Paul Kelly. The film acts as a sales pitch for the Britlin's vision, persuading the viewer (and potential resident) of its ethos and communitarian agenda.
Building on recent presentations at Reading International and Studio Voltaire, London, A New Life in Frigg is part of the artist's ongoing examination of the mechanisms of collective nostalgia and the poetics and politics they give rise to. In taking the holiday camp as a template for a model society, King constructs an absurdist design for a new Britain.
The exhibition presents a sardonic look at real and imagined notions of the past set in the context of divisive politics and contemporary forms of nationalism. It playfully observes how culture is deployed as an instrument of regeneration - a mechanism seen in seaside towns in the southeast of England.
- Any age
Play It Again: The art of remaking
- 30 June — 9 September 2018
Firstsite, Colchester, is pleased to present Play It Again: The art of remaking, an exhibition featuring ‘remade’ objects, events and films, produced by artists and the public. The exhibition showcases how history, contemporary culture and our own everyday experiences inspire repetition, remaking and reenactment in different forms.
The exhibition includes the work of contemporary artists Heather Agyepong, Laura Eldret, Michel François and Guillaume Désanges, Sofia Hultén, Hetain Patel, David Sherry, Allison Smith and Gillian Wearing. Also on display will be Star Wars Uncut, a project that was produced through ‘crowdsourcing’ material from members of the public, and historic reproductions made by Peter Shorer.
Alongside live action role-play, reenactment has traditionally focused on immersion into history, enabling an individual to experience a past era, event or lifestyle. Play It Again engages with artists, makers and fans to explore how this enthusiasm transfers into art and popular culture.
Image credit: Hetain Patel, Fiesta Transformer (2013). Installation view, Galleria Continua, Les Moulins. Image courtesy the artist.
- Any age
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR VOICE IS HEARD? | Symposium
- 23 June 2018 11am-5pm
Through a combination of talks, performances and screenings this event invites discussion about the importance of female autonomy, activism and equality.
‘Do you feel like your voice is heard?’ brings together artists, cultural thinkers and local partners in an energetic and inspiring day of action. It builds on a series of projects that Firstsite have presented over the last year exploring ‘identity’. This includes 2017 Turner-Prize winner Lubaina Himid’s ‘Warp and Weft’; Emily Mulenga ‘Taking Up Space’; Rose Finn-Kelcey ‘Power for the People’; and ‘The Britishness Project’ – a ground breaking exhibition made by young people in collaboration with professional artists in the aftermath of the recent EU referendum.
The title of the symposium is inspired by an artwork by The Gilberd School and Alternative School of Economics (Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck) that is currently on display in ‘The Britishness Project’ at Firstsite.
Alternative School of Economics
Lewis Gardens, High Street.
Pay what you can afford
+44 (0)1206 577 067