Turner Contemporary Reaches 9th Birthday Milestone

16 April 2020

This time nine years ago, Tracey Emin CBE, RA and Jools Holland OBE were joined by primary school children from Holy Trinity and St John’s Primary School in Margate to open Turner Contemporary. It was a very special day and thousands of people visited the gallery for the first time. 
We had originally planned a very different 9th birthday celebration but are currently closed because of Covid19. However, we wanted to take a moment to mark the occasion and reflect on some of the many highlights from the last 12 months.  
Over the past year, we have welcomed more than 408,000 visits to the gallery, taking us to 3.5million visits since 2011. In addition, over 100,000 local children and young people have now connected with our learning programme. Through visitor spend and direct investment the gallery has put in excess of £80million back into the Kent economy since it opened.  
In 2019 we brought the Turner Prize exhibition to Margate which made history with all four artists winning the prize  at an announcement at Dreamland on 3 December, presented by Vogue Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful OBE. It was the second most visited Turner Prize of all time, and our most visited autumn exhibition ever. 11% of visitors attending Turner Prize 2019 had never been to a gallery in their lives before. 
Margate NOW was developed in response to Turner Prize 2019 and supported by additional funding from Arts Council England. It connected with over 300 artists. Working in partnership, a programme of activity including pop-up exhibitions, theatre in local shops and hotels, and artworks came to life. During this time, a brilliant new group of volunteers committed 858 hours and welcomed thousands of visitors to Margate who explored the town. One of the volunteers recounted: “Volunteering made me feel part of the community. I met people, I talked to people I wouldn’t usually talk to and I enjoyed the connection to Turner Contemporary.” 
The new £20 note, featuring our iconic building, was launched at Turner Contemporary in October 2019 in partnership with the Bank of England. We are the first contemporary building to feature on a UK banknote. Just 9 years into our journey, this extraordinary moment was a fantastic recognition of the gallery’s success and profile to date. 
Turner Contemporary believes in the power of the arts, artists and creativity to affect change. Our critically acclaimed exhibition We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South curated by Hannah Collins and Paul Goodwin is an example of our approach. At the opening of the exhibition in February, Bonnie Greer OBE gave a powerful speech which was followed by a DJ set from local resident Bernadette Hawkes. Bernadette was one of six sitters for Barbara Walker’s new artwork Place Space Who, which Barbara Walker MBE created for our Sunley Gallery this year. Reflecting on the experience, Bernadette said: “I wanted to let you know how  proud I feel to have participated as a subject of the Place, Space, Who exhibition, which celebrates the rich diversity of Thanet’s community.” 
We are continuing to reflect and plan our response to the Covid19 pandemic as an arts organisation, ensuring that we remain relevant and vital for our 10th Anniversary and beyond.  We are currently in the process of distributing over 200 packs of artistic materials and creative resources across the community to vulnerable groups in collaboration with partners, including foodbanks, schools and Age UK.  
We hope to be able to welcome you back to Turner Contemporary soon but, in the meantime, you can read more about what we are doing at the moment  here. 





Highlights from the past 12 months