Photo: Richard Bryant /
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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.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

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

Admission charges

Entry is free. Most events are free unless otherwise stated.

firstsite has no permanent collection.

Collection details

Fine Art, Decorative and Applied Art

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.

David Watkins: Simultaneous Participation

  • 12 December 2015 — 14 February 2016 *on now

Firstsite and Essex Network of Artists’ Studios are delighted to present the first solo presentation of David Watkins’ work in the county. Based at TAP studios in Southend, David has recently tended towards collaborative working with his peers. The nature of his work, with its focus on networks and connectivity, has reinforced this in the past but with this all-new series of paintings and drawings, David is reflecting on new languages and forms.

Mapping the internet gives it a form, even though it is simply a mass network of billions of interconnected computers. It’s this amorphous and intangible ‘space’ that David attempts to record within his work, drawing parallels between these new internet systems and 20th century scientific developments such as string theory, characterised by common features such as clustering and weak or strong links.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Listening - Hayward Touring Curatorial Open Exhibition

  • 12 December 2015 — 14 February 2016 *on now

Listening brings a group of international artists together to interrogate the act of listening in contemporary art.

This pioneering exhibition curated by Sam Belinfante, winner of the Hayward Gallery Open 2014, examines the crossover between the visual and the sonic and their complex relationships to the senses. The selected works range dramatically in duration from less than a second to six hours: hear a clap of thunder that has been stretched in duration and aurally dissected, recreated by musicians and morphed back into a thunderclap; eavesdrop on a cabin in a forest and listen to the almost inaudible sound of a dying star.

Listening spans both Firstsite, Colchester and Art Exchange, Essex University and includes artists Ed Atkins, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Mikhail Karikis, Ragnar Kjartansson, Lina Lapelyte, Christian Marclay, Haroon Mirza, Max Neuhaus, Katie Paterson, Amalia Pica, Laure Prouvost, Hannah Rickards, Prem Sahib, Anri Sala, Imogen Stidworthy and Carey Young.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


James Dodds - Wood to Water

  • 12 December 2015 — 14 February 2016 *on now

James Dodds - Wood to Water sees the return of this popular local artist to the landmark Colchester gallery after an epic voyage. In 2001, firstsite @ the minories held a retrospective exhibition called Shipshape tracking the painter and print-maker's solo course from boat builder to boat portrayer. The intervening fourteen years have been monumental for Firstsite and for James.

James Dodds - Wood to Water features paintings of local boats from the river Colne, and more broadly explores the evolution of small wooden fishing boats all down the East Coast. His linocuts link these beautiful and practical vessels to the people who built and used them. James celebrates the value of our local area, offering an insight into the spiritual and political role small boats and waterside communities have in his heart.

Ian Collins, writer, exhibition curator and champion of East Anglian Art has written the exhibition book. Ian was also the author of James's prize-winning biography Tide Lines in 2011, and curator of Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia at the Sainsbury Centre, in which James featured prominently, in 2013/14.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Lewis Gardens
High Street




01206 577067


+44 (0)1206 577 067

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.