Dennis Severs’ House
We could advise visiting the National Gallery, the Wallace Collection or Somerset House, for reasons of extreme cultural importance, but dragging your legs around acres of passive art won’t improve your life, so let us show you more unique museums in London. A far more engaging – if obscure – occasion may be found at the home/museum/’experience’ of the late American artist Dennis Sever, who lived here from 1979 to his death in 1999.
The cultural significance is two-fold: firstly, the building, dating from 1725, is a Huguenot townhouse, originally inhabited by French silk weavers. Secondly – this is where the eccentric Severs comes in – its 11 beautiful rooms, from cellar to parlour to smoking room to bedrooms, are atmospherically set-designed (variously Hogarthian, rococo, baroque) to conjure an authentic picture of domestic life from 1725 to 1919, with ghosts still lingering around half-drunk coffee cups, open books and burning fires. But this is no twee pastiche; rather, you – in strict silence and, after dark, by candlelight – become part of the theatre.
Enough – it doesn’t do to know too much. However, if you count the fact that artists such as Gilbert & George, Tracey Emin and Gillian Wearing also live in these historic Spitalfields houses, that brings its significance up to two- and-a-half-fold.