Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Turner Contemporary Margate regeneration and the art police.

As art related funding goes into Margate I am putting together a very worrying picture listening to local artists, art students and art promoters.

Here are a few of the things I have heard recently, draw your own conclusions, I won’t add names to this as I don’t think it would be beneficial.
One very successful Ramsgate arts group was told that if it didn’t move to Margate its grant funding would be withdrawn.

Several KCC officers have told me that The Turner Contemporary has become a sacred cow within KCC and no matter how much funding it requires, no mater how daft or elitist the projects in engages in, funding is always found, often at the expense of more conventional and down to earth projects.
One heavily grant funded art gallery in Margate is hardly ever open.

Yesterday’s bizarre walk event was deliberately held on a weekday in term time, although it was supposed to be their main event this spring and one would have expected it to be held when most people could attend.

I was told that as the most important part of this was to be the photographs and videos it was though to be best to have a crowd that was most malleable, both from the artist’s and the photographers point of view.

Local art students were told that they had to take part in the event as part of their coursework.

Several local artists have either applied for grant funding from, or offered input to the Turner Contemporary project all those I have spoken to say they have been turned down out of hand, one said that he was sure it was because his work is paint on canvas and that he thought he would have much more success with them if he asked for a grant to dig holes in the sand.

Now what really worries me here is the criteria by which they are deciding what constitutes appropriate art and the experience of those making these decisions.

As far as I can tell they are not affiliated to any experienced and significant existing art gallery and most of the control over what is happening there seems to be in the hands of civil servants, without artistic ability or qualifications.

The gallery only seems to want to interact with either people who are very young and inexperienced and therefore easy for them to manipulate, or artists who producing elitist work that’s only justification for it being art is that the “artist” says it is.

To quote Hamish Fulton "Some people have asked whether what I'm doing is art but my answer is always the same: I'm an artist so therefore this is art."

There is also a grave concern here about the effect on our young people, by this I mean the message being conveyed to them when they were forced to attend yesterdays event is this.

You are to walk round in circles, the man leading you is an artist therefore this is art, if he wasn’t an artist it wouldn’t be art, this is part of your training as artists, when you have completed your training, you will become an artist and whatever you say is art will be art and will attract funding.


  1. How dare they waste tax-payers money on this when their closing down toilets and other amenities

  2. I am a doctor, therefore it is medicine. Josef Mengele 1944.

  3. I am a director of TDC and i don't live in thanet so i don't give a stuff.

  4. Well you can't have toliets and a art gallery and £350,000 spent on your local theatre.
    what do you expect there is a recession except in the matter of the chief execs salary and car allowance.

  5. Derick 15.15 and 15.17 I should point out that this is KCC spending our council tax and that toilets are funded by TDC not KCC.

    Richard I know I have said it before but some of you concise one liners are excellent.

  6. The Pied piper lead the children perhaps yesterdays walk was lead by a contemporary of his. I find it hard to see why Ramsgate artists would be unable to gain funding it is a Thanet based operation. derick97 different budgets waste money in different ways.

  7. Turner Contemporary funds and promotes *contemporary art*. I am trying desperately hard not to sound dismissive, but they know what they're doing, and they are in line with current, justifiable, relevant trends and themes in contemporary art and society.

    Whether *you* like it or not, is another matter - please don't attempt to suggest that T.C's choice in art is somehow wrong, personally I find many of their choices interesting, engaging and clever. Don't confuse art with craft.

  8. Whether it was the con-men making a non-existent suit for The Emporer or Hamish Fulton spouting utter rubbish, the net result was that they all walk away with sucker's money, leaving us all waiting to have a young child ask " Why is the Emporer naked?"
    If Victoria Pomeroy approved of Fulton's farce, she needs to go.This nonsense has done huge damage to TC's claims to be taken seriously as a worthwhile place to visit, when it finally opens. Revise the visitor numbers downwards again, Victoria but don't worry, Thanet and Kent tax-payers will still pay, as we have no choice. Or do we?

  9. Jon is talking tosh. He must remember that it's us the tax payers that are funding this nonsense. If it was a private benifactor then The Turner can do what its likes, but it not. At a time when the public purse is under pressure and councils cant keep basic service like keeping public toilets open, art in this form is not what the generl public want. Turner is meant to regenerate Margate, its not there for a select few to play out their fantasies.

  10. Jon, if they're really "in line with current, justifiable, relevant trends and themes", then why is it that there's so little interest in this - except when people are FORCED to attend? I'm very curious how many people actually VOLUNTEERED to take part, because from what I saw they were nearly all unenthusiastic students who were there because they were told to do so.

    I'm with Bertie, Victoria Pomeroy should be made accountable for this, because it's done Turner Contemporary's reputation incredible harm, even amongst it's few remaining supporters.

  11. Peter, might i suggest a visit to a contemporary art bookshop, maybe one of the Tate's, go and look at the Hamish Fulton section and check out his photo books. Then see if you still think his involvement has done Turner Contemporary's reputation incredible harm.

  12. The bottom line is that this is supposed to revive MARGATE, not just appeal to a select few London elitists.

  13. KCC and SEEDA could have saved themselves £17 millions build costs. Who needs a building for people to parade round and round and round. Its limitless what can be done with a few people and a bit of open space. But I dont think it will attract 140,000 visitors to Margate. Putting people in the stocks, witches in ducking stalls or public floggings might.

  14. All eyes are on Dreamland to revive Margate, one art gallery can not do that. The real scandal of Margate is who owns what land and what they do with it. While people with no personal interest or vision cling onto their grubby land and property investments the town will always be held back, i think we all know who i mean...

  15. is there anything that can be done to revive margate, tdc have made it into a ghost town. Toxteth 15 years ago had more going for it than margate does at the moment.
    perhaps the cllrs and senior officers should take it in turns to be in a set of stocks, the sale of rotten fruit would increase then.

  16. Jon / Anon 20:34, If Hamish Fulton is such a crowd-puller amongst fans of contemporary art, then why wasn't this event held on a weekend or during a school holiday? Surely even you can see how ludicrous it is that what's billed as a big event was held primarily so that they could get some nice videos & photos rather than to attract the largest possible crowd to Margate?

  17. Peter, i don't think it was billed as a big event, The big event at Palm bay or Quexpo are 'Big events'. Hamish Fulton is a artist who works all over the world but lives in Canterbury, he was free for a very limited amount of time, also the tide was a major factor in when this walk could take place. The students forced (as you put it) were largely UCA art and design students who would have been luckily to have worked with an international art like Hamish.

  18. If they didn't exactly call it their "Big Event", they certainly billed it as one of the highlights of the spring...& I can assure you that the students I spoke to (my niece amongst them) didn't quite share your enthusiasm for Hamish & his silly walk.

  19. My personal test for any reasonable attempt at promoting something is that at least one member of my fairly varied and large network of family and friends know something about or can recall some mention of the promoted item prior to the fact. That I am the only one who has the foggiest about the Turner Centre and even I only found out about this "walk" from Michael's and Peter's blogs suggests that no effort at all was mode to alert the general public. That alone gives rise to doubts about the quality of the attraction factor.


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