Penzance And Newlyn Get New Gallery Spaces And Major Exhibition

By Caroline Lewis | 09 July 2007
a photograph of a curved glass fronted building

The Exchange at Penzance. Courtesy Newlyn Art Gallery

Newlyn Art Gallery and its brand new sister gallery in Penzance, The Exchange, have been launched after a £4million extension and development scheme.

Newlyn Art Gallery, whose history goes back over 100 years, has had its Victorian facilities improved with a bright new pavilion giving panoramic views of the sea and Newlyn Green. The two-storey structure provides a new education space, café and bookshop, plus a versatile new Lower Gallery for exhibitions and events. The Upper Gallery has also been refurbished.

In Penzance, the town’s former telephone exchange has been transformed into the largest single gallery space in the region, with an undulating glass façade. The dramatic glass panels are illuminated by a changing light display, designed by Penwith-based artist Peter Freeman.

Called The Exchange, the new gallery is a large T-shape, twice the size of Newlyn’s, with features that preserve the original industrial feel of the building in its former use.

a photograph of a colourful wall with books mounted onto small bespoke shelves

Eloisa Cartonera – The Exchange Penzance. Photo: Ian Kingsnorth, courtesy of Project Base

“We are witnessing the most dramatic period of change in Newlyn Art Gallery’s 112 year history,” said James Green, Director of The Exchange and Newlyn Art Gallery. “All of this has been a very long time in the planning and to see these international artists starting to inhabit the galleries and bring their visions to life is really exciting for all involved.”

“We now have the opportunity to present work on a scale never before presented in the region. The gallery space at The Exchange, the largest single exhibition gallery space for over 180 miles, is vast and industrial in feel, contrasting markedly with the refined classical top-lit gallery at Newlyn.”

“Together these galleries provide artists with an extraordinary repertoire of spaces to work with and will bring the best in regional, national and international contemporary art to audiences in the South West.”

a photograph of a model of a severed leg on a white table

Christine Borland at Newlyn Art Gallery. Photo: Ian Kingsnorth, courtesy of ProjectBase

The new and extended gallery spaces have opened with a multi-site exhibition, ‘social systems’, that also involves Tate St Ives and reaches into the public realm. The exhibition, presented by arts organisation ProjectBase, is the first in a new, ambitious programme that will see Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange pull in international artists and work in partnerships with major institutions like Tate.

For the exhibition, Cornwall-based organisation ProjectBase has called on artists from different countries who develop products, systems and tools to create works which must involve the public to be activated and have meaning. This so-called ‘social sculpture’ entails visitor participation in different and diverse ways with each artist’s work. The exhibition runs until September 2 2007.

Newlyn Art Gallery is showing the results of Turner Prize nominee Christine Borland’s residencies at Peninsula Medical School, Truro. The video works and sculptures she has developed look at the subject of ‘practice’, communication systems, and medicine.

a photograph of a curved interior of a gallery with verticla blinds

Inside The Exchange at Penzance. Courtesy Newlyn Art Gallery

At The Exchange, an Argentinian artistic publishing project has collaborated with a Cornish writers’ collective to translate Latin American texts into Cornish dialect. The works are available to buy.

Javier Barilaro and Washington Cucurto founded Eloisa Cartonera in 2003 in Buenos Aires. The not-for-profit project works with local paper collectors, artists and writers to publish and distribute never before published material by Latin-American authors.

For Eloisa Cartonera’s residency at The Exchange, they have teamed up with locals Scavel an Gow.

German artist Regina Möller has also created a special version of her magazine, ‘regina’, for social systems. ‘regina in Cornwall’ mimics a commercial fashion magazine but subverts the format with content that challenges the mainstream magazines’ representation of the role of women in contemporary society.

Topics covered in the edition include the meaning of traditional fisherman’s clothing patterns and women surfers.

The magazine and a sculptural wetsuit made by Möller are being shown at Tate St Ives, and the magazine is being distributed at various newsagents alongside the likes of Elle and Marie Claire.

a photograph of two pairs of hands holding a beer bottle

Superflex's FREE BEER/ Bottle (version 3.0), 2006 Photo: Heine Pedersen

Also presented at Tate is a project by Danish artist collective Superflex. The project, Free Beer, plays with the idea of counter-economics, applying the open source software model to a traditional real-world product.

The idea behind open source software is that the programme (source) code behind an application or other computer utility is free for everyone to see and adjust as they like, creating a modified product from it if they so wish. A piece of software based on open source may even be sold for profit.

Superflex have produced a bottled beer, and are giving away the recipe in an analogous way.

The gallery projects have been supported with £1.65 million Arts Council funding and £1.5 million from Objective One. Significant funding has also come from Cornwall County Council, Penwith District Council and investments by the Rural Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Partnership (RCP) through the SW Regional Development Agency Rural Renaissance Initiative.

“We’re delighted that with our investment, we now have wonderful new gallery spaces of which West Cornwall and the wider region can be justifiably proud,” said Nick Capaldi, Arts Council England, South West Executive Director.

“These new cultural assets will make a significant contribution to economic regeneration in West Cornwall, ensuring also that Cornwall’s reputation for enterprising visual arts activity remains firmly on the international map.”

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