Monday, 4 July 2011

Margate the Turner Contemporary sun sea sand pictures

 I suppose in a sense visiting the Turner Contemporary is a bit similar to visiting a religious shrine of some unfamiliar tribe of humanity.

There is a bit of a sense of the god being contemporary art, and this shrine to that god is in a different geographical area to the one indigenous to the worshipers of that god.

Discussions about the Turner Contemporary are likely to very odd, I often find myself having them with people in my bookshop, partly I think because of the books I sell about the local area. One way or another if you develop an interest in this area you eventually wind up in my bookshop trying to find out a bit more about the aspect of the Isle of Thanet you are interested in. My bookshop is on the local tourist loop, to an extent. Hence strange conversations about local landmarks.

One sort of conversation goes a bit like this:

Customer: “That Turner Centre is a waste of money.”

Me: “Well it does seem to have brought some more visitors to the area.”

Customer: “It would have been better if it has some Turners in it.”

Me (wondering a bit about the pronunciation of Souffrier): “Well what did you think of, The Eruption of the Souffrier Mountains?

Customer: What?

Me: The painting by Turner that is in display in the gallery.

Customer: I haven’t actually been inside the gallery.

Another sort of conservation goes a bit like this.

Customer: I’ve just been to the Turner Contemporary and though it was a load of rubbish.

Me: What all of it? There are several artists of international standing exhibiting there, what did you think of the Daniel Burrell?

Customer: Which one was that?

Me: The stripes and the mirrors, on and by the window in foyer?

Customer: Oh I thought that was part of the building.

Then there are the people who say they like the exhibition, in a way these are even more difficult to understand.

I perhaps would say something like, don’t you think the Burrell is a bit dated to feature in a contemporary art exhibition, when the statement was more a 60s reactionary one. The customer is just as likely to say, what Burrell?

Anyway all that aside for the moment, I still haven’t got anywhere with the design faults and the other problems that I highlighted recently, see

As you can see from the picture above the floor is still a bit of a mess.

Where one goes when so much money has been spent from local tax contributions and there seems to be no real desire to solve fairly minor errors, I just don’t know. I am fairly certain that if the local council had commissioned some fairly ordinary and utilitarian building with these problems, then there would have been some effort to put them right. Any other public building that had had its floor all hacked up like that would have had the floor put right by now. Little things like positioning seats too low to see over the adjacent wall, surely with a multimillion pound project shouldn’t just be allowed to pass muster.

On to yesterdays pictures, here

and here

Anyway apart from the relatively minor faults I have mentioned the gallery does seem to be helping to bring Margate back to life, so onto the pictures.

For anyone new to this, I always publish the whole lot on my camera card, not just the ones that came out ok, this isn’t much work and some people like to see them all.

When I turned up it was low tide and a bit smelly because of the seaweed, the compensation was there were some good reflections that help the photography.

I soon flagged though and had a cup of tea at BeBeached on the harbour arm. There was very little wind and some sort of dingy race going on, very nearly in the get out and swim bracket, the dingys in the photos look like toys, not a cleaver photographic trick, just something that happened.

Not many pictures of the inside of the gallery as I have already done it see where there enough links to my pictures of inside the gallery to put you to sleep.

The ones of the Droit House through the windows were because there is  a distortion in the window glass that alters the shape of the side of the clock tower.

On to the second page of yesterday’s pictures, a few of the lifeboat manoeuvring on land.

Lunch at The Puffin Café on the harbour arm, I had a ploughman’s lunch and a pot of tea, they really understand this sort of thing, the pot of tea was served with civilised china and the ploughman’s cheddar, stilton and brie. My wife had Coke (the real thing cool from the fridge) and a toasted sandwich, all of it came out at about £8.50 which I consider to be very good value.

The rest of the pictures on the camera card are at some sort of peculiar roadworks here in King Street Ramsgate, where the resurfaced some of the road and left the rest full of problems.

The snails pace on the Pleasurama development, between 2 and six people working at any one time, it looks like it will take about twenty years to complete at the present pace.

Last Thursday’s lunch at the cake on Westgate promenade, ham egg and chips for me, and an abysmal attempt to sketch the musicians. I finally managed to drop my sketch book in the sea.         


  1. I too have spoken to many people about the Turner Centre, and I'm afraid the overwhelming majority respond negatively. The most common complaints are:
    It's very small and there isn't much in it. People expected to spend a couple of hours there and they were back out in under 30minutes.
    The contents are rubbish.
    It's a scandalous waste of public money.
    Since public money WAS used to build this thing and the public weren't given any say on whether their money was used to build it, I think it is right and proper that people should have their say now. They are entitled to comment on the costs, the design of the building itself and whether Victoria Pomery has done a good job (or any job at all) in making it worth visiting.
    What I would also like to see is a full list of all current Councillors, District and County, who voted in favour of spending public money on the Turner Centre. Then, I would like them to produce the local people they spoke to and consulted in advance of making that decision....because I can't find one.

    In some way and somehow, the people who made the decision to spend public money on this have to be held to account.

  2. 4th July 17:00

    I could not agree more, it is an absolute scandal that this was pushed through allegedly with the full backing of the people of Thanet....Rubbish, it had the universal objection of the people of Thanet.
    The final cost of this project to the tax payer(you and i)will be in excess of £30M, can you even begin to imagine what that sort of money could have done to Margate,Ramsgate and Broadstairs combined....
    I am fully in support of your call, bring forward these clowns from the Council and let them validate this monolithic mistake.

  3. And there we have it you are against i because public money that was ring fenced to be spent on a regemerative project was used for exactly that. Had the money not been used for the Turner it could have gone to anwhere else in Kent but it ended up being spent here and todate has attracted almost 200,000 visitors to Thanet. That is probably two hundred thousand more than were coming here before the Turner. Before spouting off about the cost and TDC's amount although not insignificant was small by comparrison to KCC's think about the fact yes FACT the old town in Margate is buzzing the HARBOUR ARM has cafe's etc and all in all Margate and Thanet are benefiting from the Turner. as for anon 17.00 not everyone in Thanet is anti everything and everyone. TDC to my mind should be applauded and Victoria Pomery is doing a grand job, the TC is buzzing there is always something on. As for the content being rubbish I take it you are an art critic not a mindless critic of change. Anon 18.00 what could it have done. If it was allocated to a project it had to be spent on that project in the long shape of things 30 million wont buy a great deal an average house price is just shy of £250 thousand so it could have bought 120 houses. Big deal. The TC IS HELPING THE COMMUNITY get out of your negitive mindsets and join the 21 century.

  4. Hear, hear Don!

  5. a huge water park in dreamland with a few rides would of been money better spent.

  6. At last Don some sense being posted, makes a change to everything being a conspiracy !!

    Dover is the same - English Heritage did get a few £m for development of the Castle, but they are the ones that got their act together and applied for it...

  7. I'm curious how many of the people who visit the TC are actually locals who bring no extra income to the area. Seems like they're assuming that everyone who visits are tourists.

    Not that I've been in that spot since "The Ship" was there.

  8. Well said Don.

  9. 17.00 I think you may have missed the point that this public money was only available for an art gallery, frankly if I had to make the decision between Kent taxpayers money being spent on an art gallery in Ramsgate or on one elsewhere in Kent I would opt for one in Ramsgate.

    I do agree with you that the gallery space is too small, and I do have reservations about the current exhibition, there isn’t anything in it that really draws me back again and again apart from the James Webb, by the entrance to the loos.

    18.00 the money wasn’t available for anything else, it was art gallery or nothing.

    Don having said that you like the gallery, anything you particularly like or dislike in the current exhibition. I have discussed it with several professional artists but as I said I am yet to get a coherent man in the street’s view of it.

    Peter you will I assume be going to see the Tate’s copy of Rodin’s Kiss, what with Warren’s instructions about the genitalia and keeping it in his stables because it didn’t fulfil his expectations, I have often wondered what they were.

  10. Are people still blathering on about TC being a "waste of money"? It's only been open 3 months, has drawn in it's projected yearly target already and whether the people come from Thanet or London to use it they are no doubt spending money in Margate.

    As for the art on display: do any of those who say it is rubbish actually go into TC with an open mind, read the information on offer and then actually use their brain to engage with the concept on show? Probably not because the average Joe who complains about contemporary art is so used to being shovel fed a diet of brainless pap on the telly and in the pages of the Sun/Mail/Star/Express.

    As for the TC being "small"?!? WTF do you expect for £18 million? It cost £100 million just to put a perspex roof on the forecourt of the British Museum! What do you expect the Turner to be like? It is free to visit after all and the idea is that you also visit the galleries, shops and cafes in the old town and on the harbour arm.

    Christ all bleedin mighty! People!!!

  11. We are planit fanit! beer beer and benefits.

  12. £18 million?
    At least Dick Turpin wore a mask when he robbed you!

  13. 21.15 the picture at the top of the post is supposed to be a smooth marble like polymer floor, you may need to click on it and then click on it again to enlarge it enough to see it properly. Let us assume you had paid to have this laid in your kitchen and it had all those circular graunches, would you expect it to be put right, builder, insurance type of job, because if you are a Kent taxpayer you paid for the one in the TC shown in the picture.

    By the way, anything you particularly like in the current exhibition?

  14. You completely miss the point, you say the money was to be spent on an art gallery or nothing....that is the problem !
    WHY must money be set aside for an art gallery ?
    If it's visitor numbers that were interested in then build a full size water park, a full size ice rink and watch the thousands upon thousands swarm in as this is what is needed in a place like Thanet.
    Also, these type of attractions would generate real CASH and encourage regeneration by the returning numbers of visitors who do not want to be travelling to gillingham.
    Turner centre in business terms is a total flop, how can you be proud of the fact that you attract over 100,000 visitors and make NO MONEY, that is stupidity of the highest level.
    The reason they have made no money is very obvious, if there was an entrance fee then no one would want to go in which really highlights just what people really think of this idiotic attraction.

    Thanet needs to decide if it is a seaside resort or a Cafe Culture attraction destination, it cannot be both. Turner centre is a waste of all of our money, allotted for art or not it still started as tax money and that should have been spent in a manner that was more attractive to all of the people and not just the very small minority who think art is the be all and end all of everything.

    £30m if allotted more carefully would have totally transformed Margate,Ramsgate and Broadstairs had it been spent wisely, putting it all into a shed on the end of a pier is reckless at best and a financial disaster in the making.Business plan....they have not got a clue.

  15. Hire Jeremy Kyle as chief exec?

  16. Public money should not have been set aside for an art gallery or any other blue-sky regeneration project when Thanet's sports and leisure facilities are falling to pieces. The old codgers who think the TC is a great use of £30 million probably don't have to accompany their kids to the appalling changing facilities at Jackey Bakers or to use the few dog-sh*t infested parks which cower amongst the concrete jungle that Thanet has become.

    The people who are banging on about regeneration don't seem to understand what it means. Regeneration isn't about attracting daytrippers to Thanet. It's about creating a sustainable environment where people want to live. Only then will worthwhile businesses consider locating in the area. People want towns with good schools, good housing, low crime, well-planned commercial areas and lots of green spaces for their families to relax in. They want leisure facilities that can be used all year round. An art gallery comes way down the list of must-haves.

    I'm afraid all of the bluster about the benefits of the TC isn't good enough. When these sums of money are involved there has to be a proper measure of the return on investment. Visitor numbers are meaningless when it is free to go in. People will go in just to shelter from the rain.

    How is it intended that the success (or otherwise) of the TC be quantitatively measured?

  17. Who pays for the staff at the Turner?

  18. Some pretty daft claims have been made about the Turner Centre, but the one about it attracting 200,000 visitors to Thanet takes the biscuit. So none of them came because of the beach, the sunshine, or just because they fancied a trip to the seaside, and then happened to take a look at a free attraction which has been hyped to the heavens? As the comments above show, the continuing claims that locals love this place are as empty as the gallery itself.

  19. Some pretty daft claims have been made about the Turner Centre, but the one about it attracting 200,000 visitors to Thanet takes the biscuit. So none of them came because of the beach, the sunshine, or just because they fancied a trip to the seaside, and then happened to take a look at a free attraction which has been hyped to the heavens? As the comments above show, the continuing claims that locals love this place are as empty as the gallery itself.

  20. Congratulations Don. I thought I was the only Margate resident with a positive attitude!
    It is still a great place and getting better thanks to initiatives like TC.
    I guess generations of inbred smugglers and cherry pickers just cannot admit that things are on the up. By the way, I am a resident and have spent considerable time and money inside Turner. If those miseries really want something to whinge about ... try The Lido or the scandal of delays around Dreamland caused by non-TDC bods seeking to line their pockets for little or no input.
    I am only anon 'cos I cannot be bothered to go thru all the alternatives of esrtablishing ID

  21. Just to make a few points, being someone who actually works in culture, although not for TC before you ask.

    TC has nearly reached its annual visitor target within the first 1/4 - this is amazing. Of the 180,000 odd visitors, around 50% have been local (within the district) and around 20% from outside of Kent in general. That's about 36,000 people who would never have stepped foot in Thanet buying from your shops, eating in your cafes, making use of the enhanced public transport system, encouraging boarded shops to open, and derilict houses to be renewed.

    Of the 50% of people who are 'locals' (I am one) how many of them would have stepped foot in Margate a few years ago? I wouldn't, that's for sure - a dive was a kind term for it. now, the old town is lovely, the cafes and small shops, a credit to those clever enough to pitch in at the right time. Thanet has a real opportunity to be a new Brighton and Hove - Margate the quirky Brighton, and Ramsgate, the more subtle (and overnighter) Hove. in fact, broadstairs is the only real loser at this moment in time, because it isn't making any big or real changes - but that's the Broastairs lot for you!

    In terms of the actual Turner, I have been there around 8 times now, on different days and different times. One thing I can assure you is that Victoria has an amazing pedigree in the arts and arts management (Tate Liverpool and St Ives to name two), and has a real passion for making art accessible and useable by communities - the other day 1000 local school children spent the day there, the other week, a whole group of young people were working with artists in the lovely open foyer. So before you berate the place, consider what other agendas it is supporting - schools, health, welfare, jobs!

    I agree that, for the current exhibition, it takes no more than about 45 mins to look round - brilliant! why brilliant? Because Turner IS NOT REGENERATION IN ITSELF - it is a catalyst, if all people are going to do whilst here is jump off a train, spend three hours in Turner and then jump back on a train, then we are screwed - thank heavens that Margate is coming alive, and providing things for people to do post Turner visit, and whrn Dreamland reopens, wow - we may even crack the overnight market.

    So, for all those moaning about the public money spent, consider yourselves lucky, if I'd have been making the same decisions 15 years ago, Margate wouldn't have had a penny, it would have gone to Whitstable, or Hastings, or even *spit* Ashford, but not Margate. Arts Council now fund the majority of the overheads, although the council owns the assets, and will continue to fund for at least 3 years. It has an active board of trustees, and press coverage that £18m could not buy, ever.

    Think yourselves lucky that you are living here, now, and will witness coastal regeneration that won't be seen for many years to come, the good times are over for the country, but Margate and Thanet are just about to start theirs.

  22. I've been 4 times, I'm local, and I didn't spend any additional money anywhere as a result of it.

    what's the statistical/economical relevance of that anyone? Does it make TC less relevant? As relevant? It can't make it more relevant can it?

    The proof will be in the deprivation league tables that Margate scores highly in. As soon as these start to drop, we can say as a regeneration factor TC has been a success.

    Did anyone count the customers (paying and non paying) on a sunny saturday in Primark in 2010 as a comparison? how about visitors to that other free margate attraction - the beach?

  23. To be fair 10:06, I don't think Broadstairs particularly needs to make big changes. There's certainly not many closed shops in the high street there.

  24. I won’t attempt to reply individually here but just make a couple of points.

    The first being that the Turner Contemporary is what we have actually got, and I don’t think whether you are for or against it in general is important, in terms of the minor finish and design problems agreed by the architects. The damage to the floor, problems with vehicles entering what looks and feels like a pedestrian area at speed, badly sited seating etc. Like the TC or not we paid for it and these issues should be put right.

    The second thing that concerns me is the business of the current expedition and people’s apparent apathy towards it, this seems to just prevalent among those who are supportive of contemporary art as those who don’t like it. It is as though the all of the commentators either like all of it or don’t like any of it and don’t wish to go any further. What worries me here is that were this an exhibition of some other sort of art, say for instance Impressionism, people would be saying how much they loved the Monets or how they loathed water lilies, whereas with this exhibition there doesn’t seem to be any comment about it, no one is saying that they think anything much at all.

    No one seems to be saying Daniel Buren’s Stripes and mirrors are fantastic or that they are old hat and rather boring.

    No one seems to be discussing Ellen Harvey’s engravings of modern Margate, did she base them on sketches or are the just traced from photographs, personally I think some optical device was used as the longer lines seem to have a slight curvature one would associate with a lens.

    Does anyone think Conrad Shawcross pulled off a visual interpretation of an harmonic chord or do you think it just doesn’t work, is flat whatever?

    What about Russell Crotty’s drawings of the Thanet coast, do you think he managed to express it well? Or does it just look like an expression of Trollocks Reads in Bed?

    What about Teresita Fernández and the bits of graphite on the wall opposite the ruddy biscuit like thing on the floor, did it say volcano to you? Or did it remind you of clearing up after a particularly good party?

    What about Douglas Gordon’s bits of text on the stairs, did they make you think of Turner’s last words? Did they inspire you? Were you worried your children would peel them off and rearrange them?

    What about the Turner painting itself, did you like me think it wasn’t a very good one?

  25. As time goes by the voices that were objecting to this riddiculous waste of money will continue to get louder.
    One thing is for sure, the spineless self serving councillors who pushed this through will not be seen for dust.
    Thanet deserves so much more than a pointless shed on the end of the pier with which to press all its hopes on, it was once a busy tourist destination that thrilled visitors with white knuckle rides, fish and chips and ice cream on the sun deck, now were subjecting visitors to a pathetic attempt at art which any real art lover would find an abundance of in London.
    Pathetic,worthless and a total waste of our money....sounds like a summary of our own council.

  26. The voices will get louder when the full costs are made public. At that time I predict that many of the TC apologists will realise the true extent of what has been foisted on us. Just for starters, although the construction costs were covered by the magic-pot-of money-which-is-only-for-art galleries, the running costs certainly aren't. They have to come out of your Council tax.

  27. Margit was famous all over the uk for it's day trippers and jolly boys outings!Would you rather have the arty farty brigade spending £2 on a cup of coffee and going home?
    Or have hundreds of people in Dreamland,Nightclubs,beach,bars and the town buzzing and spending £100 a day on fish and chips,cockles and whelks,beer,candy floss and all the nightlife.Get Dreamland open a.s.a.p stop the tax on beer in thanet and sell it 50p a pint everyone a winner,think of all the employment it would make people would just flock in.
    It is what Margit is famed for not that shed on the seafront.Get the proper British Barmaids back on display,Bingo tops and short skirts,it is the only way to get Margit back on its feet.

  28. Nobody will know whether the TC has been good value for money for a few years yet but there are a few facts regarding the running costs.
    The budget for the annual running costs is £2.2 millions. The Art council (us tax payers) contribute £463,000, KCC put in £1.4 millions and the rest is planned to be self generating through functions.
    In addition KCC gives an educational grant of £250,000 and as the buildings owner pays the running costs of £100,00 p.a.

  29. The people dont like it because visitors come to see art. Art is many things to many people Iliked the glass beady thing so much I WANTED TO TOUCH IT SENDING GLASS BEADS IN ALL DIRECTIONS oops it is now cordoned off, and the globes are amazing I have spent ages thinking about them. (I actually think they sum up thanet in a microcosom) It is odd one mans art is another mans junk. The fact is we have got it rather than Whitstable Ashford or Medway.

    Appreciate what it has started to do for Thanet and ask yes ASK HOW CAN I HELP THANET. Last weekend all Travelodge rooms premier inn etc were booked my wifes Aunt and Uncle ended up at Minster the closest they could get to Margate. Odd but true. I could reply to all of the silly comments here but cant be asked I LIKE THE TURNER and I LUV MARGATE and in my mind I dont understand modern art but it makes me think and if Anon 17.00 thinks about the comment It's very small and there isn't much in it. People expected to spend a couple of hours there and they were back out in under 30minutes.
    The contents are rubbish.
    It's a scandalous waste of public money.
    for more than 30 minutes he may begin to start to understand.

    Well done to the KCC TDC and anyone else involved in Margate getting the Turner Contemporary.

  30. Glad you like it so much, Don. I like going to watch football matches. The difference is that I don't expect you to pay for my pleasure.

  31. As we phase through this monster of consensual reality, remember money is generated from nothing, its just promisary notes in computers. Art is human struggle to embed the fleeting whim into a bubble of timeless reality. Art helps to define what it is to be human, just as a water park helps us experience human excitedness. Make room for Art in your hearts and celebrate it.

  32. 19.53 - Murdoch does that for you.

  33. The Turner Center is basicly for people who have never grown up. Their continuous chattering of nonesense is at best sick making to those of us who have actually worked for a living, not being a luvvy who thinks the sun shines out the rear of Tracy Emin.
    At the end of the day it is a mindless waste of our money, nothing these baffoons can dream up about it being this that and the other will ever change the fact that it is one hell of a big mistake, as usual at our considerable cost.

  34. I went to visit the Turner Centre yesterday and I was very dissapointed because I was expecting to see lots of Turner's paintings and to learn about him and his life.
    I live in Norwich and it was a long way for me to go.
    Feeling let down as I do at the moment, I think it is a very nice art centre but I will not go there again. I felt that I had been drawn to visit it under false pretences. The Centre does not offer the visual experience of Turner's actual paintings - maybe a few prints on the cafe wall would have made me feel better or even the cafe facing the sea instead of a conncrete wall would have given me some scope to imagine what gave Turner his inspiration.
    At the end of the day, the people of Margate have a wonderful art centre to visit and if I lived in Margate I would be going there every day!
    As a tourist I would say put up some Turner prints if you can't have the origionals and let people using the cafe enjoy the brilliant view out to sea - a small side view seating area is not good enough!
    Also, given all that space, why are the toilets so cramped and small?

  35. What we should have had was "The ride of Death" a huge roller coaster, bigger and better than any in Europe, 30m buys a lot of coaster, people would come from all over the world to ride the monster, that would have really put Margate on the map, instead of a few large boring empty sheds :(


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