Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary. Photo Benjamin Beker
Turner Contemporary. Photo Benjamin Beker
Turner Contemporary

Sea in the foreground. Building under construction with two cranes

Turner Contemporary exterior
Location within Kent
Established 16 April 2011
Location Margate, Kent, England
Coordinates 51°23′20″N 1°22′48″E / 51.389°N 1.380°E / 51.389; 1.380
Type Art gallery
Collection size British and international art from 1750 to the present
Director Victoria Pomery[1]
President John Kampfner[2]
Website http://www.turnercontemporary.org/

Turner Contemporary is one of the UK’s leading art galleries. Situated on Margate seafront, on the same site where Britain's best-loved painter[3] J. M. W. Turner stayed when visiting the town, Turner Contemporary presents a rolling programme of temporary exhibitions, events and learning opportunities which make intriguing links between historic and contemporary art.[4] Turner Contemporary’s ambition is to make world-class art accessible to everyone, by helping every visitor to look at the world differently, encourage visitors to embrace their curiosity, in the spirit of our namesake, J. M. W. Turner.

The organisation was founded in 2001 to contextualise, celebrate, and build on Turner’s association with Margate. In 2011, Turner Contemporary gallery, designed by Sir David Chipperfield,[5] opened, and has fast become a visitor attraction of national and international importance.

Turner Contemporary is a catalyst for the regeneration of Margate and East Kent, already welcoming over 1.8 million visits.[6] The vision of the organisation is Art Inspiring Change, using collaboration, learning, ambition and transformation to give everyone to access to world-class art.[4]

In 2012, Turner Contemporary became a part of the Plus Tate network of visual arts organisations across the UK.[7]

Queen Elizabeth II visited Turner Contemporary on 11 November 2011, as part of a wider trip to Margate.[8] Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge visited Turner Contemporary on 11 March 2015. Prime Minister David Cameron also visited the gallery on 4 July 2013.[9]

So far, Turner Contemporary has:


Creating a space to celebrate Turner’s association with Margate was the aspiration of local resident and former Chairman of the Margate Civic Society, John Crofts. He, along with a number of active members of the community, wanted to recognise and share the importance the seaside town played in Turner’s life.

Through their enthusiasm and commitment, the group’s ambitions had grown by 1994 to a centre “which would explore Turner’s connection with Margate”, as well as offer a contemporary art programme.[10]

In 1998, the Leader of Kent County Council and representatives of Kent Artists met to discuss the idea. At the same time, plans were being developed to create a cultural quarter in Margate’s Old Town as part of a wider East Kent Cultural Strategy – the idea of a Turner gallery that would stimulate Margate’s culture-led regeneration was born. In the late 1990s Kent County Council offered to fund and support the building of a new landmark gallery (later joined by Arts Council England and the South East England Development Agency).

In 2001, Turner Contemporary was officially established, our Director Victoria Pomery was appointed and Droit House on Margate’s stone pier was opened as the exhibition space.

Situated on the same site as Mrs Booth’s guest house, where Turner stayed when he visited the town, the gallery building designed by David Chipperfield Architects opened on 16 April 2011. J. M. W. Turner remarked to the influential writer and art critic John Ruskin that “…the skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe”.[11] Every visitor to the gallery can now experience the same views and unique Thanet light that drew J. M. W. Turner back to the East Kent coast time and again, and inspired much of his work.[10]

In 2010, Turner Contemporary became an independent charitable trust.

The Building

Art critic Waldermar Januszczak said: “Designed by the immaculately progressive David Chipperfield, Turner Contemporary is probably the most elegant gallery interior in Britain right now.”[12]

The landmark gallery is the largest exhibition space in the South East outside London. Designed by the multi award-winning David Chipperfield Architects, the gallery sits on Margate seafront, on the same site where J. M. W. Turner stayed when visiting the town in the 19th Century. From here, the building offers sensational views over the North Kent Coast, captures the dramatic light effects and gives visitors a unique opportunity to engage with and explore world-class art.

A prestigious competition for the gallery design was originally won by architects Snøhetta + Spence but their proposal was abandoned in February 2006 due to technical problems and escalating costs.[13] Kent County Council remained committed to the project and appointed the multi award-winning David Chipperfield Architects in July 2006 to design the gallery. In the same year, our exhibitions space expanded to the empty Marks & Spencer shop on Margate High Street, where a number of our internationally acclaimed exhibitions were held. From 2008 to 2011, work was underway to create a stunningly beautiful building on Margate’s seafront. The gallery opened on 16 April 2011.

Positioned on a plinth to protect it from the high winds and sea, the building is made up of six identical interlocking north-facing rectangular blocks. Each block is laid out over two floors and has a pitched roof at a 20 degree angle. The double-height entrance hall window, ground floor events space with external terrace and first floor Clore learning studio all have large north-facing windows offering unrivalled views out to sea. These capture the ever-changing light conditions, reflecting the range of colours found in Turner’s paintings. The three first floor gallery spaces are lit by natural ‘maritime light’ from the north-facing roof and sky lights. The balcony on this floor cantilevers out over the ground floor gallery, again giving spectacular sea views. The ‘urban window’ of the ground floor, café and shop all face the town to connect the building with its surroundings. To emphasise the changing and dramatic effect of light outside the building, a white opaque glass façade has been used. This will also resist storm and wind damage, humidity and saline intrusion.


Turner Contemporary is a charity. Support will help the gallery realise its vision to make art accessible to all, and to make a greater impact on Margate's regeneration and the lives of thousands of people.

Turner Contemporary is grateful to its Funders and Patrons.

The £17.4m building project was kindly funded by Kent County Council (£6.4m),[14] Arts Council England (£4.1m) and the South East England Development Agency (£4m)[14] and Turner Contemporary Art Trust (£2.9m). Thanet District Council provided the land.

Culture-led regeneration

Turner Contemporary have a deep-rooted commitment to growing the prosperity of Margate. Since the gallery opened in 2011, Turner Contemporary have led the seaside town’s renaissance.

Margate-born artist Tracey Emin says: “The brilliant thing about Turner Contemporary is that it has given people hope that things are going to change here and also put Margate back on the map.”[15]

Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of Arts Council England, says: “Go to Margate and marvel... something quite magical has taken place.”[16]

“Turner Contemporary has put this neglected seaside resort back on the map.”[17] - The Times, Cool Weekend Guide.

Turner Contemporary has led Margate’s renaissance. The town is now a must-visit destination, lauded as a hotspot by Rough Guide,[18] The Guardian,[19] and Lonely Planet.[20] The gallery has been cited by British Airways as an iconic landmark of the 21st Century.[21]

In addition, Turner Contemporary has done much to change perceptions about the area and has put Margate back on the UK cultural map, attracting media attention from across the globe and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge (2015), Her Majesty the Queen (2011) and the Prime Minister (2013) have all now visited the gallery.

Offering a landmark contemporary art space alongside the town’s many other attractions - the Theatre Royal Margate, Winter Gardens, Walpole Bay Hotel, Old Town, The Shell Grotto and Dreamland Amusement Park - Margate’s rich history will fuse with its bright future.

For a full list of events and activities taking place in Margate and the area, go to visitthanet.co.uk.

World-class art

We showcase the best in contemporary art alongside important historical works through our rolling programme of temporary exhibitions, giving visitors the opportunity to experience art in dynamic and provocative ways.

Artists have included Marina Abramovic, Carl Andre, Rosa Barba, Daniel Buren, John Constable, Dorothy Cross, Leonardo da Vinci, Jeremy Deller, Marcel Duchamp, Albrecht Dürer, Tracey Emin, David Hockney, Auguste Rodin, Maria Nepomuceno, Grayson Perry, J. M. W. Turner, Sir Anthony van Dyck.

Transforming lives

Turner Contemporary are determined that every person who engages with the gallery has an enriching and meaningful experience with art. The gallery finds new and unique ways for people to see, think and learn differently.

Turner Contemporary's unique Art Inspiring Change project gives Primary school children the chance to be leaders in transforming derelict sites in Margate, collaborating with politicians, artists and members of the community. The Youth Navigator programme builds students’ confidence by training them to become gallery guides.[22] In Studio Group, members of the community are leading the process of commissioning a brand new work by a contemporary artist.[23] Blank Canvas, our intergenerational group, meet every week to make and discuss art.[24] The gallery's annual Platform graduate exhibition showcases the emerging talent from Kent Universities, as part of a national competition.[25]


  1. "Victoria Pomery". Ebbsfleet Landmark. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
  2. "Turner Contemporary: Building Starts in Margate!". South East England Development Agency. 2008-11-25. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
  3. "BBC - Radio 4 - Today - Greatest Painting Vote". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  4. 1 2 "About | Turner Contemporary". www.turnercontemporary.org. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  5. "New architect chosen for gallery". BBC.co.uk. 27 July 2006. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
  6. "Turner Contemporary's Grayson Perry exhibition was visited by almost 200,000 people". Kent Online. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  7. "Plus Tate | Tate". www.tate.org.uk. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  8. Hutchinson, Amanda (11 November 2011). "Royal Visit to Margate's Turner Contemporary". South East Tour Guides. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  9. "News > The Prime Minister praises the gallery as a fantastic example of arts regeneration | Turner Contemporary". www.turnercontemporary.org. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  10. 1 2 "About > Gallery | Turner Contemporary". www.turnercontemporary.org. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  11. "Turner Contemporary". Art Fund. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  12. "Home is where the art is - Waldemar Januszczak". Waldemar Januszczak. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  13. "Snøhetta's Turner Contemporary trial delayed due to complexity". The Architects' Journal. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  14. 1 2 "Funding Finally Secured For Margate's Turner Contemporary Gallery". Culture 24. 2008-07-25. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
  15. Kennedy, Angus (2014-04-09). Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination. Andrews UK Limited. ISBN 9781845407629.
  16. "We can avoid an Age of Foolishness in the arts | The Times". The Times. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  17. "Cool culture – where to go, what to see, where to stay | The Times". The Times. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  18. "The top ten places to visit in 2013 | Photo Gallery". Rough Guides. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  19. writers, Guardian. "Holiday hotspots: where to go in 2015". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  20. "Lonely Planet's best places for family holidays in Europe 2015 - Lonely Planet". Lonely Planet. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  21. "21 landmarks for the 21st century". British Airways High Life. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  22. "Learn > Film, images and case studies | Turner Contemporary". www.turnercontemporary.org. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  23. "Learning programme > Artist Studio Group | Turner Contemporary". www.turnercontemporary.org. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  24. "Blank Canvas | Turner Contemporary". www.turnercontemporary.org. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  25. "Exhibitions > Platform Graduate Showcase | Turner Contemporary". www.turnercontemporary.org. Retrieved 2015-10-30.

Coordinates: 51°23′24″N 1°22′52″E / 51.390°N 1.381°E / 51.390; 1.381

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