Isla del Rey, one of three islands in Mahon port, is home to an architecturally imposing decommissioned naval hospital and a group of disused outbuildings built in the 18th-century. La Fundación Hospital de la Isla del Rey has spearheaded the ongoing restoration of the hospital buildings and creation of a museum celebrating their illustrious history. Working closely with La Fundación Hospital de la Isla del Rey, the President of its board Luis Alejandre, and the Town Hall of Mahon, Hauser & Wirth will conduct a major conservation project to sensitively repurpose the hospital’s Langara outbuildings into the arts center.
Hauser & Wirth Menorca will comprise an exhibition space, education program, gardens, a gallery shop, and ‘cantina’ restaurant. The 1,500 square meter space will be restored by the Paris-based, Argentinean architect Luis Laplace, a long-standing collaborator of the gallery. The internationally acclaimed landscape designer, Piet Oudolf, will create gardens in and around the arts center incorporating native species and planting suited to the Menorcan climate. Laplace and Oudolf were both instrumental in the development of Hauser & Wirth Somerset and will collaborate for this project with a group of local architects, Miquel Sintes, Minerva Sánchez and Bià Garriga, and with a landscape architect from the region, Álvaro de la Rosa.
‘We look forward to joining [the Menorcan community and local government] as custodians of this precious land and working hand-in-hand to transform Isla del Rey into the cultural hub of Menorca.’—Iwan Wirth
Hauser & Wirth Menorca’s dedicated education program will offer bespoke and varied education initiatives aimed at engaging the community and international visitors with contemporary art. Hauser & Wirth is partnering with local charities, makers and organizations with whom to develop a range of learning activities that underpin each exhibition. Activities will be developed for and in conjunction with the community’s schools, for families and adults as well as tourists, and will include screenings, talks, and interactive workshops.
The Director of Hauser & Wirth Menorca is Mar Rescalvo who hails from Menorca and brings wide experience of delivering cultural and educational projects in the Balearic Islands, Barcelona and Amsterdam. A series of local partnerships and cultural collaborations are underway with the Museu de Menorca, Escola d’Art de Menorca, The Fundació Menorquina de l’Opera and the IME (Institut of Menorquin Studies).
Conxa Juanola, Mayoress of Mahon, comments: ‘On behalf of the town of Mahon, I welcome this project which sensitively connects with the heritage of the area, preserves the natural environment and will bring outstanding cultural experiences for our community and visitors. We believe that Hauser & Wirth’s arts center will have a positive impact on both the economy and economic diversity of our municipality and will bring prestige for the island in general.’
Luis Alejandre, President of the Board, Fundación Hospital de la Isla del Rey, says: ‘After nearly three years of conversations with the team at Hauser & Wirth and our inspiring trip to their project in Somerset, I have every confidence that Hauser & Wirth Menorca will transform the island’s cultural scene. Mahon was once an important naval hub and now it will become the arts hub of the Mediterranean.’
The project on Isla del Rey will be developed according to the model of Hauser & Wirth Somerset, the rural arts center in South West England that focuses on the surrounding community and connects a passion for art with education, conservation, nature, sustainability and locally sourced food. Hauser & Wirth Somerset opened in July 2014 and has since garnered international acclaim and received over 650,000 visitors including 100 schools and educational institutions per year.