contemporary art, galleries, gentrification, modern art

Opposition to the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings

March 17, 2012

Pictured above is a view from upstairs at the brand new Jerwood Gallery in Hastings. If those fishing boats weren’t already picturesque enough, now they are framed.

At the foot of the shot is a yellow poster. And as you might know, there are several of these nearby, all voicing opposition to the new £4m gallery.

Fishermen, at least those in this town, do not want to share the beach with a first rate collection of modern and contemporary British art.

What they would prefer is a coach park, so that daytrippers can arrive by the busload and visit the old town for fish and chips. This is the town they want to see.

It cannot be denied that the new gallery changes the complexion of this part of the beach. So perhaps the neighbours are right to resist the gentrification.

They have the largest beach-launch fishing fleet in Europe and now their daily toil will become the charming and quaint view from this window.

As an art blogger from just down the road, clearly my vote goes to the gallery. We do not have a comparable space in Brighton, so Hastings is lucky.

But we don’t have a fishing fleet either. All that remains of that industry on our stretch of the coast is a beachfront museum. No, I haven’t been.

In a perfect world, thousands of art lovers would descend here every day and buy fish. Fishermen would pop round the gallery for some 20th century abstraction.

Is it really such a crazy dream? Many gallery visitors will cheerfully feast at the local chippies. But a “not for the likes of us” mentality may prevent reciprocal footfall.

But since lives are being risked daily to bring fish back from the English Channel, the maritime neighbours have the moral, if not the cultural, high ground. What’s to be done?

For more info about opposition to Jerwood on this stretch of beach, The Stade, visit the campaign website (features a 50 verse poem!). Read my review of the gallery on Culture24 here.

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