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Happy Birthday Nottingham Contemporary

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Will Gompertz | 10:30 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

Nottingham Contemporary is one year old on Sunday. And it will be a happy birthday. The modern art gallery has beaten its own - frankly ambitious - target of attracting 200,000 visitors by nearly 50%. That's impressive.

Nottingham Contemporay

 

It would be a notable achievement under any circumstances; given the unapologetically avant-garde and contemporary programme, it is a surprisingly good result.

OK, they kicked off with a crowd-pleasing David Hockney monograph exhibition, but that only accounted for 80,000 of the eventual 290,000 visits. Thereafter it has been hardcore art all the way.

I applaud the academic approach of the gallery's director, Alex Farquharson, but have to admit that I thought it might be a little off-putting to a non-specialist audience. In February, I reported on Star City: The Future Under Communism, a show about the Soviet space race.

I guessed, based on my experience at Tate, that it might attract between 20,000 or 30,000 people if they were lucky.

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Wrong. 80,000 people tipped up to see and walk in the tent-like spacesuit based on the original worn by Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. Once in, they might well have found themselves in a black-box film installation by the Otolith Group, which was an awfully long way from David Hockney's pop paintings. The film mixes images of a group of Indian women who travelled to Russia in the 1970s on a research trip with images of people floating around in space. It won the Otoliths a place on this year's Turner Prize shortlist.

Nottingham Contemporary appears to have quickly established itself in its own community. Even by February, the vast majority of people I spoke to on the streets for vox pops were supportive and proud. NC has repaid their faith by reporting an estimated contribution of nearly £9m to the local economy in its first year.

The gallery is based in the city's historic Lace Market. When sun shines, the green and lace motif that wraps the building shimmers as if hanging from a washing line in a light breeze. The building was designed by the under-rated architects Caruso St John. Many were surprised that Nottingham Contemporary was not shortlisted for this year's Stirling Prize and these two devout modernists must wonder what they have to do to receive the recognition their work deserves.

At least they now know the public likes it.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    "an estimated contribution of nearly £9m to the local economy in its first year." ?????
    how did you arrive at this figure? It COST over £20,000,000 ....it is also free to get in and quite apart from the often substandard quality of work on show is a poor,inefficient use of space.
    There is a negligable opportunity for local artists to benefit from the use of this facility especially from artists of the following backgrounds....the middle aged and aged(anyone above 30 years of age...it's like Logan's Run in Nottingham and most of the artistic opportunities locally and nationally appear to be a closed shop for graduates which automatically excludes mosts artists from a deprived socio economic background(let's have a survey relating to which proportion of Arts Council opportunities go to gifted working class artists?......I suspect VERY VERY FEW)....ie instead of art being geared for the most ABLE or a genuine attempt to be more representative of the broad range of views and tastes of the British Public..... it is largely the preserve of the most AFFLUENT and an agenda designed to encourage cynicism and apathy and the non involvement of those that dislike pretentiousness(suits those with a conservative agenda...Saatchi are you listening?....not impressed by you or any of your muppets or indeed by the exceedingly dull Daily Beast).
    The Nottingham Contemporary seems to me at best a colouring in club for children....facepainting the works....you know the sort you get at fun fairs etc...enjoyable I am sure, but not exactly cutting edge or indeed art at anything other than at the most basic level.
    This said the facepainting is artistically of a superior merit than most of the work on show at this venue.
    80,000 people have turned up to see it? how is that calculated? I have visited several times ......am I counted several times? have I statistically become 6 visitors ? and if it is so very popular why are there so few people when I visit and this is despite the fact it is FREE and what proportion of the public are actually IMPRESSED with what they see.
    Nottingham Castle?how many visitors did they get in the same time period? Let's compare and contrast !
    Why does the Contemporary Art scene have such a problem with figurative art?...we know the tired photography argument ...blah...blah....blah but in my view the ability to depict something which is discernable not only enhances the ability to communicate it is also a means of giving the viewing public and critics with integrity a means of discerning genuine quality.
    Whatever happened to the time when MODERN ART of any description actually said something of genuine consequence
    Signed a Nottingham artist of superior merit

  • Comment number 2.

    So pleased to read what a great success the Nottingham Contemporary has been this last twelve months. Both the Gallery, Nottingham City Council, Caruso St John and all others involved in this ambitious project must be congratulated on what has, appeared to become, the centre for Contemporary Art in the East Midlands.

  • Comment number 3.

    corrections/answers;

    1: It cost £19.6m
    2: "80,000 people have turned up to see it? how is that calculated?" - complex people counting cameras and software. "am I counted several times?" - Yes. The counters count how many people come in and go out of the door.
    3:"The Nottingham Contemporary seems to me at best a colouring in club for children" running art workshops for kids - free every weekend, free gallery guided tours, many activity days for families. A host of talks, film screenings and other events both at Nottingham Contemporary and at other venues in the region. A great Cafe/Bar with an excellent live music programme. and so so much more!
    4: "This said the facepainting is artistically of a superior merit than most of the work on show at this venue." Art is subjective, you may not like it but there'll be hundreds that do. . . there'll be something you like somewhere.
    5: "Whatever happened to the time when MODERN ART of any description actually said something of genuine consequence" - I guess you missed the Uneven Geographies Exhibition then.
    6: "Signed a Nottingham artist of superior merit " nuff said I reckon.

 

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