Contemporary art gallery hopes to paint Bournemouth in a new light

Bournemouth reborn: contemporary art gallery hopes to paint traditional seaside town in a dazzling new light

  • A new 15,000 square foot contemporary art gallery has arrived in Bournemouth
  • GIANT is the brainchild of local artist Stuart Semple and the first show is open
  • Sara Lawrence says this gallery isn’t the city’s only new cultural attraction










Seven miles of golden sand and two beautiful piers have long given Bournemouth the status of a classic British seaside resort. True, he is not known for contemporary works of art.

While other southern coastal towns, such as Margate and Hastings, have become synonymous with modern culture, Bournemouth has been associated with stag and hen parties and wealthy retirees. Not so much the hip as the hip replacement.

But with the opening this month of GIANT, a new, independently funded 15,000 square foot contemporary gallery in the old Debenhams building in downtown, those perceptions are about to change.

The golden sands of Bournemouth Beach have long attracted visitors from across the UK

GIANT is the brainchild of local artist Stuart Semple, who returned from London seven years ago determined to reposition his hometown as a creative hub.

“Bournemouth has it all,” says Semple. “We have amazing beaches, great food and nightlife, a university, an art school and an airport.

“The only thing we’ve never had is a contemporary gallery, and we’ve been seen as a cultural desert. »Semple wants to offer diversity.

“You might not want to listen to an opera,” he said, “but you are desperate to see Jay-Z in concert. That’s how I feel about what we do. We want to contribute to the concert. artistic scene and make it inclusive. ‘

GIANT’s inaugural exhibition is called Big Medicine and features work by major international artists such as Jake and Dinos Chapman, Gavin Turk and Jim Lambie.

Visual artists the Chapmans, whose work is deliberately shocking, show cast bronze suicide vests, which contain hand-painted art materials rather than explosives.

“It is very important for us and Bournemouth that they have decided to present them here,” says Semple.

There’s a Turk medicine cabinet, a play by Damien Hirst, and Glasgow artist Lambie created one of his sensational striped floors, like others at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Tate .

An inflatable sculpture at Big Medicine, the gallery's inaugural exhibit

An inflatable sculpture at Big Medicine, the gallery’s inaugural exhibit

“It’s basically a line that creates ripples from the architecture,” says Semple. “It’s analogous to how this gallery might spread across Bournemouth.”

Other arts organizations seeking a place in the new cultural programming include Pavilion Dance South West, with its world-class program and vision that dance touches everyone’s lives.

And the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, which won government awards and accolades last year, thanks to its online work reaching a new, locked-out audience.

It’s not just art that changes the city; Southbourne, with a quieter beach to the east, is emerging as a foodie’s paradise.

Terroir Tapas is a trendy and sustainable restaurant run by a former chef at Lime Wood. The Larder House is a more traditional restaurant but also aims to keep the food for miles around.

Let the cultural renaissance begin.

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