Exhibitions announced as Turner Contemporary prepares to reopen

Ellen Harvey in studio with The Mermaid Photograph_ Ellen Harvey Studio

Turner Contemporary re-opens in its 10th anniversary year with The Tourists: Ellen Harvey and JMW Turner, alongside ‘Ashes’ by Steve McQueen

The gallery reopens on May 18 and booking opens today (May 10).

The programme also includes Place, Space and Who by Barbara Walker; ‘April is the Cruellest Month’ by Michael Rakowitz for Waterfronts as part of England’s Creative Coast and Conrad Shawcross for Pioneering Places: Ramsgate

Ten years after appearing in the gallery’s opening exhibition Revealed, artist Ellen Harvey returns to Turner Contemporary opening the anniversary programme with her first UK solo show The Tourists, an exhibition paired with works by JMW Turner.

The gallery will also present Ashes by Turner Prize and Academy Award winning artist Steve McQueen, a double video projection telling the story of a young Caribbean man known by this name. The exhibitions mark the reopening of the gallery following the easing of restrictions and the gallery’s refurbishment works.

Work by Ellen Harvey

The Tourists explores themes of tourism and ecology and people’s relationship to images, architecture and place, destruction and loss. Working in painting, sculpture and digital media, the exhibition brings together a group of Harvey’s large-scale installations of rendered paintings and engravings.

The centre-piece to the show is a new work called The Disappointed Tourist, made up of over 200 paintings of sites that have disappeared. From the Temple of Bel in Syria to Brandy Bucks restaurant in Margate, Harvey has crowdsourced places from across the world. Embarking on this work before the Covid-crisis, it has developed an unexpected resonance. Harvey said: “After a year where we’ve all been disappointed tourists, it feels like a good time to explore what it is that we really love about our world and to think about how we can tread more lightly on the beauties that we have all longed to visit.”

Artwork by Ellen Harvey Photograph_-Etienne-Frossard

Harvey has selected two groups of works by JMW Turner, which resonate with her own works. They focus on two very different tourist destinations: the ancient ruins of Italy, which Turner longed to visit from a young age, and Margate, which captured his imagination in his later  years. Harvey has had a long interest in JMW Turner and Margate and in 2011 she created Arcadia in response to Turner’s relationship with Margate for Turner Contemporary’s opening show Revealed.

Art work by Ellen Harvey Photograph_-Etienne-Frossard.

Ashes (2002-2015) is a two-channel video installation by artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen. It is composed of footage filmed by McQueen over ten years, on two separate visits to the Caribbean island of Grenada – a former French and British colony that achieved independence in 1974. On one side of a screen is a portrait of the film’s eponymous subject and  the other side shows the building of Ashes’ tomb after he has been murdered by drug dealers on the island. Life, death, despair and hope are presented by McQueen in this work.

These exhibitions form part of a wider programme as part of Turner Contemporary’s 10th anniversary year. Further highlights will include: The Turner Contemporary Open 2021 due to take place later in the year; a joint commission by Anne Ryan and Sophie Von Hellerman; and a number of commissions/newly commissioned artworks beyond the gallery walls.

Photo Frank Leppard

Off-site/public commissions include Michael Rakowitz’s April is the Cruellest Month in Margate for Waterfronts as part of England’s Creative Coast; a new commission by Yinka Illori in Kings Hill and new sculptural work by Conrad Shawcross, commissioned by 60  primary school children  in Ramsgate.

Barbara Walker Place, Space and Who Photograph by Stephen White

Whilst the gallery has been closed, a small scale programme of building works has taken place and includes provision of a new retail area with more products sourced from local artists and suppliers; installation of LED lighting to reduce carbon emissions; replacement of internal doors to improve accessibility; refurbishment of the toilets; and improved café facilities. From this month the café will be run by Margate based restaurant, Barletta.

Booking for the public opens today. Covid-safe measures will be in place, including social distancing, the wearing of masks, and the pre-booking of time slots. Additionally, a phased installation of scaffolding will enable KCC to conduct planned external maintenance works. This will involve inspections and repairs to the exterior glass panels; and will be undertaken through the summer and autumn periods. It is intended that the Gallery will remain open whilst these works are taking place.

Victoria Pomery, Director of Turner Contemporary, said: “We’re so thrilled to be opening the galleries again and are looking forward to welcoming visitors to a new season of exhibitions.

“These artworks are made to be seen; immersive, large scale or rich in detail – we are optimistic that audiences will enjoy discovering these works both inside and outside of the gallery.

“Our capital scheme, delivered in partnership with Kent County Council and Arts Council England, has refreshed some of our facilities and will support our ongoing work here in Margate. As we mark our 10th anniversary year, we’re looking ahead to how we can continue to make a real, meaningful difference for our communities in the years to come – especially after the challenges of the last year.“

Cllr Helen Whitehead, Leader of Thanet District Council, added: “Art, when aligned with community needs, has the power to transform, inspire, and unite and I am delighted that Turner Contemporary will be reopening its doors for visitors once again. The district has one of the most vibrant art scenes in the UK and the new exhibitions promise to engage audiences old and new, as well as exploring important themes.

“Turner Contemporary plays an important role in connecting communities to art and vice versa, and as national restrictions continue to ease and more public spaces start to reopen, the gallery provides a great opportunity for people to reconnect with art in a beautiful seaside setting. We look forward to celebrating Turner Contemporary’s tenth successful year and are delighted to be able to support the gallery bringing art out into the community around Thanet.”


  1. I know Margate Hippodrome was demolished in 1966, but didn’t Ramsgate Hoverport close in 1982/1983?

  2. Peter I think you are correct with hoverport, shame they didn’t care about there staff at turner. Anyway just more tat to see no doubt

  3. “Turner Contemporary plays an important role in connecting communities to art “….really? …..unfortunately it treats its staff like they dont matter. Booting them out during lockdown and just before Christmas….several ACAS cases going on now…..Turner Contemporary be ashamed

  4. Turner Contemporary plays an important role in connecting communities to art “

    Yea its true when ever I tell my teenage son to tidy his room, the rely I get is ” it’s not as bad as that bed at the shed that sold for a few million”. True I say but if that bed had been in my house it would have ended up in a skip ! There arent brought people with a few million quid to buy ever teenagers beds so get it made !

  5. The truth is local libraries featuring talented amateur groups are far more likely to connect with communities.

    • Peter, give it a rest, take the day off, have you any idea how many visitors Turner Contemporary has had since it opened its doors? How many people do you imagine visiting Thanet go to one of our libraries to see some amateur landscapes?

        • Only reason I would use the place Peter. I wonder how much this place has cost me as a rate/tax payer with free entry? I doubt I will ever know.

          • Apart from Gary and a handful of others, I don’t know many locals who have a good thing to say about the place. If it is “connecting communities to art” then it’s not the Thanet community!

  6. The real thing that annoys me most about the Turner Centre is its run from my taxes.

    Ever hobby or interest I have I have to pay. Be it football, gigs, cinema etc yet the arty people get their hobby free.

    I really dont see why a small fee of say a tenner the same as a cinema cant be charged. Or even 50 quid like gigs and football lol.

    Why is the art hobby free ? Kids that play grassroots football pay to keep the club going.

    I dont this style of art that looks like a 5 year old has done it.

    But the art people SHOULD pay for the Turner Centre and their hobby

  7. Interesting selection of new trustees. A whole raft of far-left DFLs, woketivists and BLM activists. We should expect endless programs of ‘re-education’ and “celebrations of diversity” “Challenges of inclusivity” and “re-examinations of Britain’s place in the world seen through the lens of black otherness and colonisation”. The Turner Center is just another FOB in the culture war.

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