Turner Contemporary marks 10th anniversary

Turner Contemporary Credit Hufton + Crow

Today marks 10 years since Turner Contemporary first opened its doors to visitors in 2011.

The art gallery opened in 2011, 10 years after the organisation behind it was first formed, on the same site as the boarding house where artist J. M. W. Turner stayed when visiting the town

Designed by Sir David Chipperfield, the building has been visited by prominent guests including Queen Elizabeth II  on 11 November 2011, and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge  on 11 March 2015.Previous Prime Minister David Cameron also visited the gallery on 4 July 2013 to celebrate Ramsgate’s London Array windfarm.

Oscar Murillo, Turner Prize 2019, courtesy Turner Contemporary and the artist. Photograph by David Levene 25/9/19

The Turner Prize 2019 was held at Turner Contemporary from September 2019 to January 2020 with the combined win for the four artists announced in December 2019.

The 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.

Over the last 10 years the gallery has exhibited the work of over 2000 artists and put £70million back into the Kent economy. Last year a new £20 note went into circulation which also featured the building.

Totality by Katie Paterson. Photo: Ben Blackall

Exhibitions and events have included work from People Dem Collective, Tracey Emin, Grayson Perry, art from schoolchildren and even a visit from a ‘polar bear.’

Photo by Manu Palomeque

Many people have grown up with the gallery and the learning and educational opportunities it provides; 100,000 local children and young people have worked with Turner Contemporary since 2011.

Over the next year, Turner Contemporary will be sharing stories and reflections from the last decade and  will be looking towards the future and planning for the next 10 years and beyond. ​

Tracey Emin with the My Bed installation

Improvement works have been taking place at the gallery, including   a redesigned retail area which will showcase products and artworks from the gallery’s creative community, new and additional toilet facilities, new café furniture, installation of lighter doors to each of the galleries and faster Wi-Fi.

Children at Turner Contemporary Photography by John Sainsbury

The CCTV system will be upgraded, and a new finishing kitchen will improve the capacity of the café and enable it to stay open during events.

Barletta has recently been announced as the new partner for the gallery café.

Where it began

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.

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, Victoria Pomery was appointed as director and Droit House on Margate’s stone pier was opened as the exhibition space.

A 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

In July of that year David Chipperfield Architects were appointed to the project.

From 2008 to 2011, the building was constructed on Margate’s seafront

The gallery building designed by David Chipperfield Architects opened on 16 April 2011.

In 2010, Turner Contemporary became an independent charitable trust.

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.

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


  1. I’m genuinely curious how exactly they came up with the “put £70million back into the Kent economy” statement. How do they calculate these figures?

    • People earn healthy salaries creating these meaningless figures. Include the wages of the man who delivers milk to the Turner cafe, the money the milkman pays his hairdresser etc etc etc and you can soon arrive at any total you like.
      Attendance claims are equally unreliable. Knock off the staff coming and going and the visitors who’ve popped in just to use the loo and they would be somewhat different. We would know the truth if the gallery charged admission. Which the cynical might suggest is one reason why it doesn’t.
      The £17 million building cost was just the start. Millions more has been spent each year since, via Kent County Council and the taxpayer-funded Arts Council. Currently, £2 million is being spent upgrading a building which is only 10 years old.

  2. Going by the figures that’s 34.8 million spent on the Turner Centre in 10 years. 34.8 million on art in margate.

    Has it improved margate well the old town yet but the rest of margate ?

    • I’m not even convinced it’s improved the old town in the long term. Last time I walked around there about 18 months ago (pre-pandemic) I was shocked at how much shabbier it looked compared to a few years earlier.

  3. How much cash have they sponged off KCC? Why does the town & seafront look like a bomb hit it-actually worse than a decade back?

  4. The problem we now have with the Turner Centre is it has turned Margate into this arty farty town and money will be thrown at it for years to come, the worst part of it all is the lovely view there used to be from the top of the hill is now lost forever. It hasn’t improved the area at all the vacant shops now seem to have artwork created by two year olds, there is no incentive for people to open businesses, high business rates and no help from TDC when coming to parking unless you work for them. Just look at the empty shops at Westwood Cross.

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