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Art on Sea

19 February 2013

The gallery aims to open art to everyone (including the locals), connecting historical and contemporary. Turner said the Thanet skies were ‘the loveliest in all Europe.’ They aren’t, but you might as well go and check them out.

So, we all know London’s got a few reasonably-sized buildings with expensive paintings nailed to the walls. But it’s also got a lot of people standing in front of them, nodding, stepping up, squinting at words, nodding, stepping back, opening their mouths, nodding, and then shuffling sideways, nodding. Well, if that’s your thing and you fancy doing it somewhere else, why not check out these five art galleries that are not actually in London. The ruddy cheek of them.  

 
 
Last summer I saw Prince Edward and wife Sophie outside the De La Warr Pavilion opening Richard Wilson’s Bus On The Top Of The Roof Exhibition like in that Michael Caine film. It swang up and down like a bus seesaw for giants. Pretty impressive. As is the Pavilion itself- a Grade One Listed Modernist building smack on the seafront. It’s iconic, majestic, geometric, like a big slab of Viennetta. To be honest, there isn’t much architectural competition in Bexhill but if there was the De La Warr would still win, easily. There’s always loads going on – contemporary art exhibitions, live comedy with real comedians off the television, eclectic music, educational programmes, family stuff. Oh, and there’s a groovy award-winning bandstand round the back. 
 
 
 
The Jerwood is really new, a year new. Situated on the Stade, the shingley beach in Hastings, it’s already had its fair share of detractors, protestors and naysayers due to its location amongst the wonderful elongated black fishing huts and its potential to make Hastings well, posh. But the stark black block fills the space fittingly; in fact the Stade might be the only space on a beach where a black block does fit. The gallery’s home to a fair chunk of 20th and 21st century art, with the well-known: LS Lowry, Sir Stanley Spencer, Walter Sickert and Augustus John; the not so well-known: Eliot Hodgkin, Dod Procter and that other one; plus contemporary works. The main collection is comprised of abstract and figurative works from between the First World War and the 1960s. So if that’s your period, the Jerwood’s your place. And if you do go, dress down.
 
 
 
Right, all the way over to West Sussex now. To Chichester. Where they’ve got a cathedral and used to have a McDonald’s that was so posh it had pillars. And it’s in this modern historical (modhist?) architectural style that Pallant House was built, combining a Grade One Listed Queen Anne townhouse and an award-winning contemporary extension. It’s like visiting a stately home with an Anglian conservatory. Well, not really, but the blend of impressive staircases, chesterfield armchairs and glazed windows allows for an enjoyable viewing of art as modern as a horseburger. Pallant House is very big on contemporary exhibitions including recent Olympics shows, Frida Kahlo, Peter Blake and, my favourite, Adrian Berg.
 
 
I don’t know about you but when I think of Eastbourne I don’t immediately think: Modern; Contemporary. Have you even heard of Eastbourne? Well, there’s been a bit of a re-branding exercise going on amidst the old ladies and coach trips in recent years. And the Towner Gallery has been doing its very best to make Eastbourne EXCITING!!! Yep, it’s a challenge but the Towner is definitely worth getting a coach, or even a train, to. It’s got the biggest display space of any gallery in the South East (1250m², actually) and some impressive names filling it – Grayson Perry, Henry Moore, Eric Ravilious (the largest and most significant of anywhere); plenty of local South Downs stuff; video installations; contemporary foreigners; and a café with a hillside view. Go to Eastbourne. Please!
 
 
If there’s only one thing more surprising than an art gallery in Margate, it’s that the art gallery is called the Turner, not the Emin. But even Tracey would have to concede that cockney Joe, a regular visitor to a Margate guesthouse (originally where the Turner is now located) and a certain special landlady: Mrs Booth, was a pretty decent and famous artist with a Margate connection. The minimalist building is situated right on the promenade and would make just as much sense on the moon. But it’s inside that counts and in the Turner we find the largest exhibition space in the South East (tell that to the Towner!). The gallery aims to open art to everyone (including the locals), connecting historical and contemporary. Turner said the Thanet skies were ‘the loveliest in all Europe.’ They aren’t, but you might as well go and check them out.
 
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