Wednesday, 2 September 2009


Well, it's been a bloody long time, but after £17.4 million and a large degree of public cynicism, the Turner Contemporary Art Centre finally appears to be taking shape. Hardly miraculous, I know, but I'm pretty sure it won't be long before it'll be permanently perched at the foot of Margate harbour like a grounded UFO. Let's just hope they don't start abducting all the naysayers, immersing them in formaldehyde and putting them on display à la Damien Hirst, eh?

I'm not gonna lie, it's hard for me to not be a little bit excited about the prospect of an art gallery plopping on our pretty beach like a big white dog poo. Sure, it's architecturally vulgar in some respects, but I do hope it's a big success, I really do. But I am a bit dubious as to whether modern art will be widely appreciated by some of the Thanet locals, that's all. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm not putting 'em down, and I'm as big a fan of art as the next bloke, but speaking personally, some modern art just leaves me completely cold.

I like some forms of abstract art, expressionism, figurative painting, etc. but conceptual art, if I'm honest, just annoys the bejeesus out of me. Obviously, that gobby Margate lass Tracey Emin's made quite a big name for herself as a conceputal artist under the ragtag label of the Young British Artists, and though it's probably very unpopular for me to say it, I really don't rate her stuff at all. If anything, I probably have more in common with Tracey Emin's former cohort, Billy Childish, who famously founded the Stuckist movement as a reaction to all that Charles Saatchi-approved conceptually pretentious hoo-ha.

I suppose it's the difference between artists who feel comfortable with postmodernism (like Emin, Hirst, etc.), and those who don't, and I personally think postmodernism, for the most part, is a load of tosh. That's probably why I don't really like some types of modern art. Am I alone in struggling to see the artistic value in exhibiting an unmade bed (Tracey Emin) or switching on a lightbulb in an empty gallery (Martin Creed)? So, if the Turner Contemporary Art Centre is filled with all that kind of postmodernist nonsense, would it really be surprising if it gets up people's noses? Especially if, like me, you don't happen to appreciate its artistic merit (or lack of).

So, there you go, my flag has been well and truly nailed to the mast. I'm aligning myself with the Stuckists on this issue, in particular their contentious claim that “artists who don't paint aren't artists.” Maybe that kind of validates my initial cynicism about the Turner Contemporary Art Centre. This is, perhaps, why I wonder whether the Thanet locals will appreciate the particular kind of art that the Turner Centre may seek to promote – mainly because I can't stomach it.

Sure, it's a bit selfish of me, but I guess all I can do is hope that when it's up and running the Turner Contemporary Art Centre takes me by surprise and challenges my prejudices about modern art. Although, to be fair, judging by recent plans to allow Tracey Emin to display a huge pink neon sign over Droit house that will read “I never stopped loving you,” then I'm not gonna hold out any hope. I'm a miserable sod like that.


  1. Completely agreed.

    Yes, I'm all for the enthusiasm behind the new Turner... but for what it will hold is another matter.

    I'm all for the challenge of one's mind and how people can percieve objects in different way; but Hirst's idea of pickling "insert animal species here" in the name of art I still don't get! What happened to art actually needing the person to have some for natural talent??

    It brings me back to something on ebay a few years back when a man managed to convince bidders that his 1 year old son was an amazing post modern artist with his finger paintings.. and one actually sold for £10,000!

    Fingers crossed that our council may have actually (god forbid!) made the right choice with regards to it's location becuase Margate, if anywhere seriously needs the boost and publicity.

    But will they pull it off???

  2. Luke,

    Like the blog and have added your link to my own site.

    Margate certainly needs some help when it comes to regeneration and I hope that the TC can pull it off.

    I do remain pissed off at how badly KCC have handled the whole thing though, £6million wasted on a failed first attempt and delay after delay!

  3. Certainly, yes, I also distinctly remember KCC promising very publicly a few years back (on BBC News, I think) that the construction of the TC would not exceed £15 million. Well, it has, by £1.4 million. So much for that promise!

  4. Ooh, correction, it's not £1.4 million - it's exceeded their original estimates by £2.4 million. Which, I'm sure you'll agree, probably makes it much worse. Haha.

  5. Very true, being the more conventional type. I fail to see the types of contemporary art that Lucien Freud produces, with his painting of Sue Tilley, drawing many crowds at the Turner Art centre. Who would like his conception of uglifying his 'victims' unless you have excess money to burn. I do find I am drawn to some impressionistic paintings and contemporary work like Svetlana Novikova which may find a niche in the centre.

  6. I hope that I am proven wrong, but I cannot see the Turner Centre having much of an impact. I don't see crowds flocking from Thanet or other regions of Kent once it has opened, there will be initial interest to satisfy peoples' curiosity, but that will soon fade. What gets me is that Margate was always an attraction for people from the more crowded areas (and less socially mobile, no insult intended) of London, places like Lewisham, Dulwich etc, I don't really see the typical day tripper from London wanting to come to the coast to visit an art gallery, especially when there are so many in London on their doorstep! I know that the gallery was built with lottery funding and that the funding wouldn't have been there if the thing hadn't been built, but I can see the headlines in a couple of years about the Turner Centre being a massive white elephant and an inquest into why it was built in Margate.