Turner Contemporary Opens

Managers at the Turner Contemporary in Margate are hailing its opening weekend a big success with more than 15,000 visitors.

Huge crowds gathered on the seafront as Tracey Emin and Jools Holland, performed the opening ceremony at the £17m art gallery on Saturday.

Tracey Emin, who grew up in Margate, said the opening was a "really tremendous, fantastic, important day, not just for Margate but also internationally. To open up a new art gallery in these times is just phenomenal. 

She continued: "Margate should feel so proud that they managed to capture this fantastic Turner Contemporary. Art is going to be the strongest and the best thing that's ever happened to this town."

8,000 visitors arrived on the opening day itself, with more than 2,000 checking out the Visitor Information Centre next door at Droit House. The gallery's cafe served up more than 2,000 cups of coffee, while the Turner Contemporary mug was a bestseller - nearly all of them sold out.


The loveliest skies in Europe

The Turner Contemporary is named after 19th century artist JMW Turner who went to school in Margate and was a regular visitor to the town. More than 100 of Turner's works are inspired by the East Kent coast and he described the skies of Thanet as "the loveliest in all Europe".

The idea for the gallery was first suggested in the 1980s, but it wasn't until 2001 that a design was unveiled, and it was another two years before it was given planning permission.

The original design proposed the centre be built in the sea at a cost of £7m, but the plan was scrapped in 2006 due to technical problems and after costs rose to £50m.

A new architect - David Chipperfield - was brought in and a new design was produced - all high ceilings, big windows and skylights, giving the views Turner himself would have seen. Work got underway on the new design in 2008 and was finished earlier this month.

It is hoped the Turner Contemporary will help kick start the regeneration of Margate, which was once one of the country's most popular seaside towns, with two million visitors flocking there every year.