Monday, 16 May 2011

What is Art?

Since the opening of the Turner Contemporary there have been two main questions buzzing around the Isle blogs. Was it worth it? – and – what is art?.  I think I will leave the first question for you to answer yourselves, otherwise I may be accused of damaging the tourist intake potential.

So – What is art?  I have been involved in architecture all my working life and the general consensus about architecture or “art in the built environment”, is a building becomes architecture when it contains qualities which lift it above the mundane. Therefore a Barrett house “may” not qualify but the TC building definitely would.

Many people have described the TC building as a large shed and it does have some “shed-like” qualities, but equally it has some architectural qualities. The six mono-pitched roofs facing out to sea are best viewed from the air (see Thanet Life) otherwise, on the ground, only three sections can be seen at a time. The glass cladding is an interesting finish but as yet I have not seen a convincing photograph of its reflective qualities, mimicking the Turner skies, as promised. It seems to have a blank grey appearance imitating a good Margate fog. I just hope the graffiti artists do not want to make a contribution to the Turner collection.

Architecture, similarly to art, does not have to please, you can love it or hate it but I suppose the main thing is, it should stimulate a reaction. The Turner Contemporary, either the building or its contents are certainly causing positive and negative reactions, so they are therefore stimulating and both should be considered art.


  1. To most people in Thanet art is a "pretty picture wot looks like somefink" and architecture has to be in brick and preferably look over one hundred years old. Anything new, like the Turner, will be met with dismissive comments about "looking out of place" or "an eyesore" and god help the contents of the building should they be modern art and take more than a cursory glance to understand them.

    Turner Contemporary is here to stay, is popular and no amount of Philistine criticism is going to divert it from providing something interesting for those of us in Thanet who enjoy art.

  2. Anon 18.26 The point of the post was that Art can be like Marmite, love it or hate it, does not stop it from being Art.

    I am sure visitors to TC from outside Thanet will keep an open mind about their appreciation.

    In Thanet the "thought police" would have us believe everthing is "beautiful on the isle"

  3. Ken, do you know I have relatives down under whose constant demand is for people to bring them Marmite. The Aussie equivalent is allegedly unpalatable so don't knock the good old veggie spread. Folk might miss it if they couldn't get it.

    Agree with you about art for I am one of those plebs who likes to be able to recognise what the artist was painting and rate the buildings designed by Christopher Wren. I don't do unmade beds or tin shacks, but respect the rights of others to enjoy them if that is their bent. After all, if beauty were not in the eye of the beholder, I guess we might all be fighting over the same squeeze!

  4. Bill, I love Marmite always have, I also like the challenge presented by understanding modern art.

    However, I think sometimes you have to say, I have studied this exhibit and it does nothing for me.

    I went inside TC today and was most impressed by the illuminated winmill which casts moving shadows on an inanimate object onto a blank wall. I didn't have time to find out more about it but I will certainly go back.