Turner Prize: Transforming Non-Gallery Spaces for Exhibition

“We Must Cultivate Our Garden” said Candide in Voltaire’s novel. An apt name for an exhibition of past Turner Prize artists, with the aim to inspire and support children and young people through the arts. This exhibition, organised by The Sixteen Trust, runs at the Sunshine Café in Margate until 20th October 2019. We asked its founder Lee Cavaliere a few questions about hosting galleries in unusual spaces, and how to easily create condition reports for artwork. 

Tell us a little about the concept of this exhibition…

The Turner Prize is taking place this year in Margate; it’s a town with well-documented potential in terms of its growing arts infrastructure and community but which remains by some measures, within the bottom 1%, economically in the UK. The Turner Prize has always been forward-thinking and has looked at potential for art that seemed at first glance difficult and inaccessible. It seemed appropriate then, to put on an exhibition of past Turner Prize artists in Margate – it looks at the potential, for Margate and for art, as well as looking at its recent history.

Lee Cavaliere

Lee Cavaliere

Why did you choose the Sunshine Café in Margate?

 The show is housed in a previously derelict 1930s Grade 2* listed building that very much represents both Margate’s golden past, and the potential for its future. It’s a beautiful building that has been closed to the public for over a decade – there’s a lot of interest and curiosity about this space and it feels like it represents the things that Margate is capable of. 

Sunshine Café turner prize

Sunshine Café, Margate

What were the particular challenges of exhibiting in a non-museum setting?

There was nothing here! The listed status means I wasn’t able to hang on the walls, so a ‘gallery’ space needed to be built into it, free-standing. But in terms of access and so forth, it was fairly straightforward; it was a commercial building for 80 years, after all. But, there was no electricity to the space when we got in; we literally had to build a gallery and then install the works into it. 

Turner Prize Sixteen TrustWhat advice would you give to those thinking of exhibiting in unusual spaces?

Just that it’s not impossible. I think there’s a perception that these spaces offer up an insurmountable challenge; it’s not straightforward but if the space is right, people really fall into line behind the project, In this case, the local council were instrumental and made it as easy as they could for me to gain access; there are a few hoops to jump through but it’s to do with patience and time!

Turner Prize ArticheckHow did you use Articheck?

Articheck was invaluable as always – the works came from a variety of sources and locations: direct from artists, and from private collections. Some of the condition reports were patchy at best so Articheck really created a brilliant record that they can now build on. The show travelled to London first, and we could create updates in each location quickly and easily. It’s still the best available option for creating condition reports. 

What’s next for the Sixteen Trust?

We’re raising money from the London show and off the back of the Margate exhibition to develop our mentoring program within schools; essentially we have a network of arts professionals who will go into schools to initiate projects. They’ll have a meaningful, long-term engagement with the students, offering support, opportunities and works experience. It’s to do with breaking the myth that the arts are not a viable option for young people in challenging economical circumstances; the art world needs people from all backgrounds in order to continue and grow.

The project is supported by Thanet District Council, Arts Council England, Queens Fine Art and Margate Festival. For more information about the show and to donate to The Sixteen Trust, visit www.thesixteen.org.