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  • Turner Contemporary opening ceremony 16 April 2011
    Image © Ady Kerry

About > History

Creating a space to celebrate Turner’s association with Margate was the aspiration of local resident and former Chairman of the Margate Civic Society, John Crofts. He, along with a number of active members of the community, wanted to recognise and share the importance the seaside town played in Turner’s life.

Through their enthusiasm and commitment, the group’s ambitions had grown by 1994 to a centre “which would explore Turner’s connection with Margate”, as well as offer a contemporary art programme.

Realising the dream

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 as part of a wider East Kent Cultural Strategy – the idea of a Turner gallery that would stimulate Margate’s culture-led regeneration was born.

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

A presitigious 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.

Kent County Council remained committed to the project and appointed the multi award-winning David Chipperfield Archtiects in July 2006 to design the gallery. In the same year, our exhibitions space expanded to the empty Marks & Spencer shop on Margate High Street, where we held a number of our internationally acclaimed exhibitions.

From 2008 to 2011, work was underway to create a stunningly beautiful building on Margate’s seafront. The gallery opened on 16 April 2011.

Situated on the same site as Mrs Booth’s guest house, where Turner stayed when he visited the town, everyone can now experience the same views and unique Thanet light he saw, and that inspired much of his work.

In 2010, we became an independent charitable trust. 

Turner Contemporary Today

Turner’s legacy as a visionary who bridged the gap between traditional and contemporary art and his sense of enquiry continues to inspire our innovative exhibition, events and learning programme.

Sadly, John Crofts died in 2009 before he was able to see this concept realised. The commitment, hard work and enthusiasm of many individuals over the years ensured that the dream of Turner Contemporary was made a reality.

Since opening, we have welcomed over 1.5 million visits and contributed over £32million into the local economy through tourism and inward investment. You can feel a palpable change in Margate, a renewed vibrancy, inspired by the gallery’s presence.

“Go to Margate and marvel… something magical has taken place.”
Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair Arts Council England

Learning is at the heart of Turner Contemporary. We believe that everyone can embrace their curiosity and discover new ways of seeing, thinking and learning.

We look forward to welcoming you to Turner Contemporary.