Hastings Contemporary: what to expect from the art gallery relaunch

Director Liz Gilmore
Director Liz Gilmore

The iconic art gallery on Hastings seafront is preparing to undergo a major relaunch under the new name Hastings Contemporary.

For the last time this Sunday, the building will welcome visitors as the Jerwood Gallery – the name by which it has been known since it launched in 2012 on the site of the old coach station.

It will then close for several weeks for repainting and rebranding, before opening to the public as the independent Hastings Contemporary on Saturday, July 6.

The relaunch came about after a dispute between the gallery’s management and the Jerwood Foundation led to the foundation announcing earlier this year that it would repossess around 300 pieces of artwork and cut funding for the gallery – read more here.

As a new independent gallery, director Liz Gilmore said the Hastings Contemporary could focus on feeding the public’s ‘insatiable appetite’ for more exhibitions.

“97 per cent of our visitors come to see our exhibitions,” she said.

“We want to do more of that. It’s about doing important exhibitions that drive the footfall to Hastings and to the gallery.”

The new gallery will retain its focus on the medium of painting, but Liz said there would be ‘no limitations’.

“We plan to build on what we have done well, which is to deliver modern British art and contemporary art,” she said.

“We want to do that in a bigger and hopefully more flagship way.”

Historic works will also be showcased, as will works by more international artists, she said.

For its opening next month, the gallery will hold two major shows – the first major public gallery exhibition of British artist Roy Oxlade, and new works by Israeli-born, Danish artist Tal R:.

Works by David Bomberg, Oxlade’s teacher and mentor, will also be displayed, along with a series of new drawings by Sir Quentin Blake.

Exhibitions at the gallery will continue to make full use of the ‘iconic and distinctive’ building, Liz said, with more of the available space used for art – from the corridors to the courtyard.

In terms of the new name, the Hastings Contemporary, Liz said it was inspired by respected regional galleries with a similar vision, such as the Turner Contemporary in Margate and the Nottingham Contemporary.

The new gallery, which has already received an anonymous donation of £250,000, is supported by Hastings Borough Council and, since it became a charity two and a half years ago, receives yearly Arts Council funding – which Liz said was ‘a real endorsement’ of its potential for the future.

Central to the gallery’s mission going forward will be continuing and developing its learning programme, which has already seen the gallery work with every school in Hastings and St Leonards, according to learning manager John Murray.

Ahead of reopening to pupils and the public, special guest His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester will be given a tour of the new gallery later this month.

Liz said it was an ‘exciting time’ for the gallery as well as for Hastings.

Find out more about the upcoming exhibitions and relaunch here.

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