Open studios are nothing new to arts festivals but this year's Dulwich Festival also includes Artists' Open Houses. As the many house programs on all TV stations prove, we are a country of home voyeurs. Grand Designs is the peak of this folly. We want to see the owners suffer before we and Kevin McCloud (in his sensible cords and serious striped shirts) see the luxury they will live in (and then we can hate their taste in fabrics and soft furnishings), or there is the very low end 60 Minute Makeover where Claire Sweeney (often in very tight and revealing tube tops) races around someone's house and makes over three or four rooms in what is meant to be only one hour of work. They do not count all the prep time and as it is TV they may simply edit it to that one hour, but at least the home owner gets someone else to do the job. Then there is Homes under the Hammer where likely lads and first time property developers chance a profit on cheap and usually dilapidated properties bought at a discount. We get to see local estate agents value their hard work as the presenters Martin and Lucy ooh and ahhh. There is Location, Location, Location with its humpy male co-presenter Phil, who now has his own spin off - Phil Spencer: Secret Agent (he is also now a gay 'bear' pinup), Escape to the Country, DIY SOS, Property Ladder and who can forget How Clean is Your House?
It was with Kim and Aggie in mind (with their rubber gloves and sensible suggestions on how to clean lime scale from the loo) that I rubbed my hands together with excitement at seeing the grand homes of Dulwich. So many of those homes listed in the thick festival book are not those of artists but of people hosting the work of artists, and who wouldn't want to see those million pound loos. Obviously not just me, as there was a steady stream of people in every home I visited (and don't think they weren't running a finger along table tops for dust). I was more worried about traipsing mud into their homes, and quite a few looked like they were right out of Kevin's program. Expensive glass editions to insanely pricey Georgian piles or Sir John Soane inspired sun wells (that brought some light deep into the interior spaces) fought for attention with the art and the reclaimed wooden floors (more oohs and ahhs).
I am not sure whether to be as crass as to list the best houses to go to as the festival is also running this weekend but if you get down to South London you too can have a look. In any mixed event there are some stand outs and I will list only the art that you should try to see. Tom and Ingrid Beazley at 182 Court Lane are presenting a number of very exciting artists which include Yuta Segawa's incredible miniature thrown pots and vases (above) and you can buy one of Jane Higginbottom's seed bombs (below) for a pound, take it away and thrown it into some derelict land and a wildflower meadow will sprout from it, terrorist gardening - what would Claire say! Polly Bagnall and David MacDairmin are showing at 3 Pond Cottages and well worth a stop, as is Karen David and Mandy Hudson at 46 Choumert Road, David Edmond at 30 Netherby Road, and Louis Blond at 64 Park Hall Road (landscape at top) .
The festival is not only in Dulwich but has great open studios in Forrest Hill (Havelock Walk), Tulse Hill (Parade Mews and the Acme Studio - Carlew House) and shows in houses in SE 5, 15, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27 and most accessible by public transport. Go one have a peek, you know you want to!
Artists' Open House
Dulwich Festival 2014
17 - 18 May
11am - 6pm
All images courtesy the author