Turner Prize results in busiest Autumn exhibition ever at Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary celebrates the Turner Prize 2019 Photo John Horton

The Turner Prize 2019 exhibition at Turner Contemporary attracted 141,550 visits.  It was the gallery’s most popular Autumn exhibition ever and was the second most visited Turner Prize exhibition of all time since it was established in 1984.

However, originally Turner Contemporary gallery director Victoria Pomery had estimated that the exhibition would attract 250,000 visitors,  compared with 130,000 over the same period for a regular event, meaning the uplift fell short of expectations.

Kent County Council documentation during the Prize stated: “Turner Contemporary estimate that the exhibition will attract 250,000 visitors as compared with 130,000 over the same period for a regular event. This will bring the annual total of visits for 2019-20 to 500,000.

“During the show… visits are estimated to top a total of three million since the gallery opening in 2011.”

The actual number of visits still exceeded that of  the Prize when it is hosted at Tate Britain, its regular London home. These exhibitions have attracted between 70,000 and 100,000 visits.

Turner Prize 2019 was awarded to a collective of the four nominated artists: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo, and Tai Shani. The artists requested that the jury consider awarding the Prize to them as a collective in recognition of their shared commitment to urgent social and political causes. The prize was presented by Edward Enninful, Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue, at a ceremony broadcast live on the BBC from Dreamland Margate.

Specially devised to run alongside this year’s exhibition, more than 500 artists took part in Margate NOW, a town-wide festival of art, events and performances guest curated by actor Russell Tovey and developed with partners.

(Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Stuart Wilson/Getty Images for Turner Contemporary)

The festival included the installation The Welcome Chorus by sound artist, designer and electronic musician Yuri Suzuki which has now been extended until  February 23. The work saw 12 horns installed on the terrace of Turner Contemporary, each singing lyrics generated live by a uniquely trained piece of AI software.

Yuri Suzuki’s The Welcome Chorus. Outside Turner Contemporary. Margate NOW. Courtesy Turner Contemporary and the artist. Margate. Photograph by David Levene

In London, University of the Arts marked 35 years of Turner Prize with the exhibition Counter Acts  at the Lethaby Gallery in Kings Cross, showcasing previous winners and nominees who studied or taught at UAL.

Emmer Sewells Porch in We Will Walk photo by Hannah Collins

The exhibition programme at Turner Contemporary continues with We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South from February 7 –  May 3. The exhibition is the first of its kind in the UK and reveals a little-known history shaped by the Civil Rights period in the 1950s and 60s. It will bring together sculptural assemblages, paintings and quilts by more than 20 African American artists from Alabama and surrounding states produced from the mid-20th century to the present, many of which will be coming to Europe for the first time.

In numbers

Research undertaken by Canterbury Christ Church University shows that 7.52% of Turner Prize exhibition visitors had never before visited an art gallery.

Overall there were 141,550 visits

Turner Contemporary also welcomed more than 120 visits from schools

Some 3000 children and young people attended.

More than 800 hours of volunteering time took place during Turner Prize 2019 from individuals based in Margate and the surrounding areas.

Turner Contemporary volunteers directly connected with more than 5000 people as part of the wider programme, Margate NOW

More than 26% of all visits were from Thanet residents

Some 33% of survey respondents visiting Margate, who attended the Turner Prize 2019 exhibition, stayed overnight in the area


  1. Well done everyone involved. Really good news for Margs…….the new £20 note is in circulation soon with the Turner Contemporary and Turner on it….more fame for Margs…?

  2. 141,550 visits. All free

    Its about time us poor rate payers stopped funding this shed , it clearly has the footfall to be self funded.

    • I am confused, on how such a accurate number of visitors can be given. Does include people who just go in to use the toilets? Or those who come out for a cigarette and go back in, is that two visits? My point is the number of visits is a estimate, and can not be proved. The only way to check the real number of visits is to charge a small £10 or so entrance fee. Just to check those numbers. Anywhere can be a success if it is free. The Pubs would not be failing and closing if the beer was free to drink and being paid for by tax the payers.

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