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Turner Contemporary’s new visual arts gallery opens in Margate

  • Date: 13 April 2011
  • Area: National, South East
gallery in blue

Turner Contemporary gallery, first floor interior. Credit: Graces Ayson

A major art gallery opens its doors to the public in one of England's legendary seaside towns.

Turner Contemporary opens on Saturday 16 April with a 10-day programme of free events and activities and an opening exhibition centred around JMW Turner's 1815 painting of a volcanic eruption he never witnessed.

The exhibition, Revealed: Turner Contemporary Opens, captures Margate's spirit and landscape, as well as Turner's vision and creativity, with four new commissions from Daniel Buren, Russell Crotty, Ellen Harvey and Conrad Shawcross, alongside selected works by Teresita Fernandez and Douglas Gordon

The gallery sits on Margate's seafront, on the same site where Turner stayed, and houses 700 square metres of exhibition space, a dedicated education room, a seminar and multi-function room, café, retail and administration space.

The gallery was designed by internationally renowned David Chipperfield Architects, who carried out a formal public consultation with over 8,000 residents, community groups and businesses. It is the largest exhibition space in the south east outside of London.

Arts Council England invested £4.1 million towards the gallery's £17.4 million build, which took over three years to complete. Support also came from Kent County Council, who invested £6.4 million and managed the project, South East England Development Agency, Thanet District Council and philanthropic funds raised by the Turner Contemporary Art Trust.

Starting on the weekend, the public are invited to join the free activities inside and around Turner Contemporary and Margate's Old Town, a celebratory festival called You are here. The opening day starts with Graham Gussin's light installation Illumination Rig, 2011, which will light up Turner and the surrounding environment, like a film set, until midnight.

Performances over the weekend include Orlando Gough's community choir The BIG Sing, Willi Dorner's Bodies in Urban Spaces, and London jazz band Portico Quartet. Expect to see a rare 1950s American airstream caravan take up residence on Margate Harbour Arm presenting various artists' work, while an eight-piece Deal band called Cocos Lovers perform in the gallery's Foyle Room.

As a visual arts organisation, Turner Contemporary has been working in Margate since 2001, using a number of temporary exhibition spaces, such as Droit House on Margate's Harbour Arm and a disused department store on the High Street.

Over 600,000 people have taken part in its education activities since 2002, and it's developed successful public programmes, such as the 2009 prize-winning Times of our Lives intergenerational project. The project, which saw 13 to 25 year-olds working with people aged 60 and over to explore what it means to be a teenager, won a National Transformation Fund Adult Learners Award.

It is hoped that the gallery will help be a driving force in Margate's regeneration. Already, historic theme park Dreamland is undergoing a £3.7 million refurbishment, while multi-agency Margate Renewal Partnership has been carrying out culturally driven regeneration activity since 2006.

Former resident and vocal support, artist Tracey Emin says, 'The brilliant thing about Turner Contemporary is that it has given people hope that things are going to change here and also put Margate back on the map'.

Sally Abbott, Regional Director, Arts Council England, says, 'We're proud to support Turner Contemporary, and we're looking forward to the opening with its programme of high quality international contemporary art.

'Turner Contemporary will be integral to local life and vital to regeneration, with long lasting benefits for the community. Great art enriches lives, and this gallery will help more people experience and be inspired by the arts.'

The gallery will be part of the Plus Tate partnership, a UK-wide network of 18 partner galleries and a small number of strategic collaborative projects.

Turner Contemporary opens on Saturday 16 April, all day, and is free admission.
You are here, a 10-day programme of free activities for all ages, runs from 16 to 25 April. Exhibition Revealed: Turner Contemporary Opens runs from 16 April to 4 September 2011.

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