The Turner House Gallery on Plymouth Road (named after renowned painter J.M.W. Turner) is about to become the only remaining art gallery in Penarth.
………But this is an art gallery that doesn’t have a Turner on show – or, in fact, any paintings at all.
The gallery is now run by the grant-supported charity “Ffotogallery”and only shows photographs. The current exhibition is of black and white photos of clothed, nude, and semi-nude Lithuanian middle-aged peasants and claims to show the “decline of Lithuanian village life”since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The event is said to have been “developed by the Lithuanian Photographers Association with support from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania”. Although entrance is free the exhibition has attracted only modest local interest.
Ffotogallery claims it only presents exhibitions of “high quality and photographic interest” but says “in any one year it is possible that members of the public may be offended by images on display.” There are no age restrictions on entry but the room containing nude photography bears a notice warning that some content might not be suitable for younger visitors.
Turner House was purpose-built in 1888 as Penarth’s own art gallery by local benefactor James Pyke Thompson to show his collection of Turner paintings. He insisted on free public access. In 1921 it was acquired by the National Museum to show publicly-owned paintings from the museum’s “reserve collection” – none of which have been seen in years. In 2003 Turner House was leased by the not-for profit registered charity Ffotogallery which, although supported by the Arts Council for Wales, does not show any works of art other than photographs.
It remains to be seen whether the imminent closure of the Washington Gallery will now prompt the publicly-owned National Museum or the taxpayer-funded Arts Council for Wales to provide exhibitions of paintings and sculpture as well as photographs at Turner House.