Turner Contemporary and Folkestone Triennial 2011


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I had a really good time at Turner Contemporary in Margate and Folkestone Triennial. The images above show the story of the two days spent on the South East coast of England…A million miles from home…

Arriving at Margate by train you can immediately see Turner Contemporary from the station across the bay. This is like the Hepworth’s Snork Maiden to Yorkshire’s Moomin Papa. A much more petite version of Chipperfield’s monumental style.

The town of Margate is positioned such that it is North-facing and, therefore has the most amazing sunsets. Turner was a regular visitor, but since those times the fortunes of the town have ebbed and flowed. Tracey Emin is now synonymous with Margate and its hold on her is as strong as her hold on it.

Revealed: Turner Contemporary Opens is a mixed show based around a work by Turner which depicts a volcano he never saw. The work of six contemporary artists explores the idea of imagination, discovery, wonder and creativity.

Borrowing and Multiplying the Landscape by Daniel Buren allows, through the use of mirrors, a single view point to be reversed and repeated into infinity, like some sort of looking- glass world. The Douglas Gordon piece on the stairs I had seen before at Tate Liverpool. It’s an interesting work but one which is hard to contemplate in this setting. I found it difficult to read and digest the words without somone needing to get past.

I liked Russell Crotty‘s library of hand-drawn globes and books. There was something otherworldly about the combination of hand-drawn wateriness, scrawlled writng, almost pointellist effects. Our position in the world is challenged by the scale of the books and the galaxy of globes in the space.

My favorite piece was Arcadia by Ellen Harvey. A giant interior world inside the gallery, containing the whole of Margate. The world in a grain of sand.

Behind the main desk, a neon work by Michael Craig Martin reminds me that the history of this buliding is yet to be written.

Turner Contemporary: curator’s blog

On to Folkestone where 19 specially commissioned sculptures, films and sound works are on show in public spaces around the town.

Folkestone Triennial

I thought this was a well organised event. I was greeted with information about the triennial as soon as I left the train at Folkestone Central. I followed a trail of yellow seagulls on the pavement into the town centre.

The first thing I came upon turned out to be one of my favorites. An empty shop has been transformed by Egyptian artist Hala Elkoussy into a reading room. The walls were covered in photographs, documents, advertisements and maps showing the colonial past, when Cairo was known as Paris on the Nile. It gave an insight into the complex history of a city that has once more been the centre of a political storm with the Arab spring uprising. The film, being shown in a back room, was beautifully filmed, with exquisite colour and a mesmeric soundtrack.

I walked down the main street and, by chance, came across Smadar Dreyfus’ School. A reconstruction, in a completely blacked out space, of 7 lessons and a break in a Hebrew school in Israel. I found this piece overwhelming and disorientating. I could not devote the time necessary to this piece and I have to say I was glad to return to the bustle of the market and warmth of the sunshine outside. I felt as though I had travelled to a different place entirely.

At this point I think I got a bit lost. I found it hard to know what was art and what was seaside shop frivolity.

I made my way through the brightly coloured streets to the seafront where I found Cornelia Parker’s delightfully understated Folkestone Mermaid sitting on the rocks between the harbour and the sandy bay. There was something so incredibly moving about a lifesized woman in bronze gazing out to sea from her vantage point. It made me think about how small we really are.

I couldn’t find Tracey Emin’s teddy anywhere, but people had left real teddies in the arches.

Then I walked round the harbour and on to Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen’s Promised Land video about migrants, which again looked beautifully filmed but at 55 minutes too long for my visit. I walked onto the pebbly beach outside to look at A K Dolven’s Out of Tune, a bell moved from a church in Leicestershire and suspended 20 meters in the air.

I then walked further along to the Leas Lift, a Victorian water lift connecting the beach with the town above the cliff. Martin Creed’s Work No. 1196 is an inspired collaboration with the Sacconi Quartet. I loved this piece.

Next onward to the Church of St Mary and St Eanswythe where Hew Locke‘s For Those in Peril on the Sea is a flotilla of model ships suspended from the roof.

I then walked back up into town, saw some decimal clocks (Ruth Ewan) and flags (Spencer Finch) before heading to the library to see Charles Avery’s Sea Monster, lying rotting on the parquet floor and Olivier Plender’s video in the Masonic Hall.

By this point I was exhausted and completely arted out so I headed back for my high speed train to whizz me back to London and onwards to the north. I found Turner Contemporary less exciting than I had hoped. I thought the displays were beautiful but almost too minimal. However I loved Margate and think the gallery will grow to be loved by a regional audience. Folkestone too was great but hard to navigate if you don’t know the town. Both have been hugely successful, 10,000 visitors to Folkestone in 5 days, 100,000 visitors to Margate in 6 weeks proving that there is most definately an appetite for contemporary art. Hepworth Wakefield has had 125,000 visitors in the first 6 weeks. This level of visitor numbers needs to be capitalised upon if these organisations/ events are to succeed financially. So next time you visit one of these “free” destinations please remember to spend at least £5 every visit and consider becoming a “friend” of the organisation.

By the way… I can also highly recommend Dirt at the Wellcome Institute on Euston Road, and the Walpole Bay Hotel in Margate who have a breakfast room of artist napkins and tonnes of Tracey Emin ephemera.


3 Responses to “Turner Contemporary and Folkestone Triennial 2011”

  1. 1 Rebecca Morrill

    It’s an art work!

  1. 1 The Art of Making Things and Getting Things Done: Public Art and Regeneration (Notes from Wrexham) « Steffan Jones-Hughes

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