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.
- 10 March — 3 June 2018 *on now
Chip Night is an exhibition of artwork, writing and music from people in prisons, secure hospitals and on community sentences in the East of England.Curated by Firstsite’s Young Art Kommunity (YAK), the exhibition is drawn from works submitted to the 2017 Koestler Awards – an annual awards programme spanning 52 artforms.
The Koestler Trust was set up in 1962 to help offenders, secure patients and detainees lead more positive lives by motivating them to participate and achieve in the arts. Each year, the awards attract thousands of entries from across the UK’s criminal justice and secure sectors. Last year’s judges included the Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux, celebrity hairstylist Louise Galvin and musicians Ghetts and Hot Chip.
Chip Night is comprised of writing, music, and works of visual arts across the disciplines of painting, needlecraft, sculpture, woodcraft, mixed media, drawing, textiles, and digital art. The show’s title derives from an essay about chips and the important role that they play in the author’s life in prison. For YAK, the essay acts as a vehicle to narrate personal stories and explore the emotions and nostalgia that food can invoke.
Throughout the exhibition-making process, members of YAK have undertaken curatorial development sessions with the Koestler Trust and Firstsite staff. YAK has curated the works in small groups or pairings, exploring how themes might work across the various mediums. In Firstsite’s year of identity, Chip Night looks at how one’s sense of selfhood and Britishness can be impacted by social circumstances.
- Family friendly
The Britishness Project
- 17 March — 17 June 2018 *on now
The show, which was initiated by the gallery, is the result of a collaboration between Essex schoolchildren and eight professional artists, each of whom undertook residencies in schools and education organisations in Colchester, Harlow and Harwich between September and December 2017.
By inviting young people – the pupils' ages range from eight to seventeen – the exhibition aims to generate wide-ranging conversations about the shifting social, geographic and political identity of Britain, revealing issues that affect young people, especially in the context of the 2016 European Referendum.
The assembled works include collage, stop-motion animation, sculpture and photography, and engage with ideas of identity, landscape, sub-culture, democracy and political voice.
The Britishness Project is supported by a series of programmed events to encourage more comprehensive debate on issues of identity, citizenship and community, as well as the role of the arts in education.
The exhibition has been made possible by the generous support of the Garfield Weston Foundation.
- Family friendly
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
+44 (0)1206 577 067