Artist Tracey Emin officially opens TKE Studios and residency project – and reveals plans to buy Westbrook Loggia

Official opening of TKE by artist Tracey Emin and contributor Maxine Photo Frank Leppard

Artist Tracey Emin has cut the ribbon for the official opening of the TKE Studios (Tracey Karima Emin) and her artist residency project in Margate, adding to her growing portfolio of investment in the town.

Hundreds of people gathered in Victoria Road to watch the opening ceremony this morning (March 25) which featured music and a parade by 1st Margate Boys and Girls Brigade,  song Like A Prayer from the town’s Social Singing Choir and the ribbon cutting with oversized scissors.

Photo Paul McVay

Also present were Margate mayor and deputy mayor Cllrs Heather Keen and Rob Yates and council leader Cllr Ash Ashbee.

Amongst the crowd were well-known figures including Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof and musician Jools Holland as well as celebrity potter Keith Brymer Jones.

Photo Paul McVay

Tracey Emin bought the former Edwardian bathhouse, mortuary and children’s nursery in November 2021 for £750,000. She has since spent upwards of £1million renovating and refurbishing the site.

It now consists of artist studios and gallery spaces to provide “a perfect working environment.”

Bob Geldof in the crowd Photo Frank Leppard

Ten artists from around the world, including Uganda, America and Margate, are occupying the studios which Tracey Emin is subsidising. There will be a schedule of visiting tutors and catering school The Best Place to Grow,  led by Margate restaurateurs Lee Coad and Charlotte Forsdike (of Angela’s and Dory’s).

Inside TKE

Ms Emin has also bought nearby flats which she is renting to her artists, again at a subsidised rate.

The artist also owns her studio/living space at the former Thanet Press site which she moved to in 2017, The Brown Jug pub in Broadstairs and the former Margate Constitutional Club and One Union Crescent.

Inside TKE

During her opening speech she revealed she has another property proposal and is planning to put in a bid to Thanet council to buy the Westbrook Loggia building at Westbrook Bay.

Inside TKE

She said: “My next project…(is) Westbrook pavilion, down on on the beach which is going completely derelict. It is a beautiful Art Deco looking building.

“I’m intending to put in a proposal to buy it.”

Photo Lee Collier

She added: “I plan to renovate it and make it into a swimming club, surfers club, hot showers for the winter swimmers, steam rooms, café, bijou restaurant and sundeck. I want the surfers to stay there, the lifeguards to stay there and want everyone from Margate to enjoy it and be able to use it.”

Photo Frank Leppard

Ms Emin says she plans to submit the proposal next week and expects the project to cost “a couple of million.”

Last year Thanet council approved plans to sell the Loggia building, which was originally constructed as a bathing pavilion in the early 1900s.

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Opening the TKE building Ms Emin said: “This is better than I could ever dreamt or ever imagined. When I was grew up in Margate as a little girl that(opposite) was my library, the Sunday School was around the corner that I wasn’t allowed to go to after I was followed home. Margate was such a different place and I am so proud of everybody who has been part of this project and part of Margate’s regeneration generally.”

Photo Frank Leppard

Talking of her pride in Margate and of being part of its regeneration, she added: “Wherever the arts go, commerce follows except this time we got here first and we’ve nailed it.

Photo Frank Leppard

“Margate is ours, it’s our town it’s our creative mecca and we are going to make it more creative and more available for creative people to live here.”

Ms Emin said by doing that it would help everyone in Thanet including the “18,000 living below the poverty line.”

Photo Paul McVay

Ms Emin wore her Margate Freewoman’s robes for the occasion saying: “I am very proud donning my robe, tricorn hat and medal. I’m very proud of Margate.”

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The ten artists have been in residency for the last three weeks and will be provided with an 18-month course, with a year of tuition and six months of preparation for a show.

Inside TKE

Some £2.3million funding was secured for the studios when Ms Emin sold her artwork Like a Cloud of Blood.

The piece was one of the first paintings she created following her treatment for bladder cancer. She was diagnosed with the disease in spring 2020 and underwent an operation in the Summer which meant the removal of many of her female reproductive organs and the need for a stoma bag. The 59-year-old is now in remission.

The painting was auctioned by Christies last year with the money going into Ms Emin’s foundation to support current and emerging artists at the new studios.

Following the opening event Cllr Rob Yates said: “Every town needs a Tracey Emin.”

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