Turner Contemporary is a new gallery or as the PR boffins would call it "a visual arts venue" in Margate, Kent, England, intended as a contemporary arts space and an impetus for the regeneration of the town. Much the same as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao inspired the town around it to lift it's game.
Almost immediately after its opening, the Guggenheim Bilbao became a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the globe. It was widely credited with "putting Bilbao on the map" and subsequently inspired other structures of similar design across the globe and buildings in and around Bilbao. Without beating around the bush here Bilbao was a bit of a bummer but the Guggenheim and Frank Gehry's inspiring design turned the town from being nowhere to becoming a destination for people from around the world.
So the thinking behind the Turner Contemporary is sound. Although I will say Margate is a dump. Crumpling buildings, disaffected youth and the blinking lights of tired "amusement" parlors. It's a a place that there isn't a lot to smile about. While a lot of people were asking "why build an art gallery in Margate?" the real question should have been "How can we not build an art gallery in Margate?"
The title of the gallery commemorates the association of the town with noted landscape painter J. M. W. Turner, who went to school there, and visited throughout his life.
One of the biggest supporters of the scheme was artist Tracey Emin, who was brought up in Margate. Tracey is an acquired taste, she's an artist who displays herself as much as she displays her work. She is one of my favorite artists.
Her brashness and her readiness to put so much of her own joy and pain into her work. One her her artworks - Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995 was a tent that contained all the names of everyone she'd ever slept with. Emin has often made use of found objects in her work from the early use of a cigarette box found in a car crash in which her uncle died. The most well known example is "My Bed", where she displayed her bed. Another instance is the removal of her beach hut from Whitstable - that Ed and I visited down the coast from Margate - to be displayed in a gallery. This work was titled The Last Thing I Said To You Is Don't Leave Me Here (The Hut).
Ed and I took a stroll around the gallery and the work contained within is both eclectic and unashamedly modern.
Sfunato (September 18) by Teresita Fernadez uses pieces of graphite and drawing on the wall to depict a rising cloud of smoke...
ARCADIA by Ellen Harvey is an installation with many cross references. Visitors approach via a fairground-type sign, outlined in lightbulbs and facing a seascape that is actually New York's Coney Island. Harvey says this and the style of the sign reference the fact that Margate's amusement arcade, Dreamland, was copied from Coney Island...
Russell Crotty paper-covered. fiberglass globes show contoured topography depicted actually made of irregular lines of text in what the show catalog describes as "rickety capital letters." The words represent the artist's incidental thoughts while making the work and range from reflections on the landscape's wonder to angry rants about threats to it...
The Turner Contemporay is an interesting experiment. While we were there it was filled with visitors - both local and not-so-local so business is booming. However the building itself isn't a spot on the Guggenheim and Margate is a long, long way from Bilbao.
It's a brave move and a one that I hope pays off. I believe that art can save us, elevate us. The only question is will the people of Margate feel the same way? As I was leaving the sparkling new Turner Contemporary I caught sight of something carved into the fresh paint on the side of the building. "Kelly sucks cock" Hopefully this isn't a bad sign - then again maybe it's the struggling beginnings of a new artistic career.