turner contemporary at margate

31 August 2011 § Leave a comment

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The old town centre of Margate has been somewhat revived by the arrival of the adjacent Turner Contemporary. Cafes selling frosted cup-cakes jostle for space with art galleries, vintage shops and boutiques in the historic lanes, old warehouses on the harbour wall are now artists studios. All very pleasant.

Over on the seafront, built on the precise former location of the eponymous landscape painter’s former lodgings, lies the striking new gallery. Dominating the seafront it is an impressive, white angular edifice.

Entering from a courtyard with an attractive cafe there is a feeling of space – there are high ceilings and vast windows overlook the sea with the reflected light that Turner so admired. Daniel Buren has here created a striking striped porthole through which the view can be enjoyed, but there is little more to commend.

Apparently ‘exploring themes of imagination, discovery, wonder and the creative spirit’ inspired by Turner’s painting The Eruption of the Souffrier Mountains Douglas Gordon makes some tedious word-play up the stairs to the gallery, globes from Russell Crotty reflect his ‘experience walking many different coastlines’, Conrad Shawcross’ installation is on the theme of a musical chord whilst Teresita Fernandez’s two works ‘explore the relationship between interior space and landscape’ .

Connections with Turner are tenuous to say the least, although Ellen Harvey’s work is rather more relevant and interesting with illuminated copies of Turner engravings created as scenes of contemporary Margate arranged in a darkened space and entitled Arcadia using fairground lettering.

The curators have wasted the momentum of the publicity gained by the new opening on a largely uninspiring display of mediocre work. Here was an opportunity to introduce the very best of contemporary art to a previously under-served area, instead the locals – including the ones I spoke to – are more inclined to call it a gigantic white elephant. Hopefully the next exhibition will be better.

Revealed: Turner Contemporary until 4 September 2011

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