Remember this - the central lightwell on the first floor of Penarth's Turner House? It's now been filled in and the surrounding handrail removed.

Remember this?  – The central light-well on the first floor of Penarth’s Turner House – a Grade ii listed building?  It’s now been filled in and the surrounding handrail removed.

Major alterations have been carried-out inside Penarth’s historic Turner House Gallery – a Grade II-listed building for which planning permission is normally required before any internal features are changed.

The current occupier – the publicly-funded charity Ffotogallery – has removed the large light-well in floor of the upstairs gallery and taken away the bannister, and the wooden handrail which surrounded it, so that it can stage an exhibition as part of the biennial  “Artes Mundi”  art competition (top prize £40,000) which is to run at Turner House until February.

The nine-screen "cinema" installed in Turner House, Penarth

The nine-screen “cinema” installed on the first floor of Turner House, Penarth

The First Floor gallery has been converted into a 9-screen "cinema" - but there aren't any seats

The first floor gallery has been totally blacked-out and converted into a 9-screen “cinema” – but there are no seats for the  one-hour videos which all play in synchronization, enabling viewers to see all nine artists perform separately but in unison.  The central light well in the floor has been planked-over and carpeted – and the original perimeter handrail has been removed.

A guitar being played in a bath is one one of the 9 screens

A guitar being played in a bath is one one of the 9 screens

Ffotogallery has now filled-in the light-well with floor-planking (supported by newly-installed floor joists beneath) and has turned the  upstairs gallery into a totally blacked-out 9-screen “cinema” with nine projectors continually showing nine different videos of individual performers performing simultaneously on the nine different screens.

The exhibit has been created by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. The artists in all nine videos (one of whom is sitting in a full bath playing a guitar)  are all performing the same musical piece which is repeated on an endless loop lasting an hour. It’s not a cinema though – there’s nowhere to sit.

Some local PDN readers are demanding that Ffotogallery should restore Turner House to it’s original condition before vacating the building.

The exhibition featuring supermodel adverts in which brands have been supplanted by the names of real women.

The exhibition featuring supermodel adverts –  in which big-name brands have been supplanted by the names of what are described as “Socialist heroines”

On the ground floor there is an exhibition by Sanja Iveković of what look at first glance like fashion-magazine adverts featuring supermodels,  but in which the names of “Socialist heroines” have supplanted the original brand-names .

The "Donkey Toy" exhibition in Turner House

The “Donkey Toy” exhibition and illuminated Nazi donkey photo in Turner House

In the adjoining gallery there is a separate exhibition by Iveković featuring a glass-case full of toy donkeys linked in a less-than-obvious way to a WW2 Nazi propaganda-photo featuring a donkey surrounded by barbed wire (a metaphor for what would happen to stubborn citizens) and a series of brief biographies, pasted on the opposite wall, of “historical figures who resisted injustices”– including Che Guevara.  Like all the others  Che has been allocated his very own toy-donkey.

The Artes Mundi exhibition at Turner House continues until 21 February 2015.

Ffotogallery is a publicly-subsidised charity specialising in photographic images. It  has already indicated it plans to quit Turner House within two years.

Turner House in Penarth once displayed original Turner paintings donated to the people of Penarth.

Turner House in Penarth once displayed original Turner paintings donated to the people of Penarth.

Turner House and its contents (including a collection of original Turner paintings now worth many millions) was donated to the people of Penarth in 1897 by its founder and creator James Pyke-Thompson – a flour magnate who lived in Penarth .

A board of trustees was  set up to manage the Gallery on which Penarth Urban District Council was represented. However in 1921 the Trustees – without any public consultation – transferred Turner House and its contents to the National Museum of Wales. The National Museum stripped out all the valuable Turner paintings and placed them in storage. It later leased Turner House to Ffotogallery.

James Pyke-Thomson’s original bequest of Turner House, and of its priceless Turner paintings, to the people of Penarth remains unfulfilled.

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  1. Brickie says:

    Sounds like Penarth has been short-changed from Mr Pyke-Thomson’s generous bequest. This building is not being used to its best advantage. I have visited three times in my 18 year residence in Penarth and have been under-whelmed to say the least.

    • Zofia Krasnowolska says:

      Questioning the quality of an art gallery on the basis of 3 exhibitions in 18 years is very narrow-minded. How can you know the building is not being used to its best advantage then? The fact that you do not personally like what is shown there does not make it bad.

  2. Papa Lazarou says:

    Over thirty years of wasted marketing and nonsense “art”….

  3. Walter Walker-Pitt says:

    Those are rather large coat hangers on the first floor. I don’t think it’s a very good idea to put a cloakroom in the middle of a cinema with standing room only.

  4. I agree with the comments above. The National Museum could have retained the building as the site for temporary exhibitions, e.g. Penarth’s rich geological heritage, paintings by Penarth artists, various other groups, transport enthusiasts, hobbyists’ collections, local historical societies, and yes, even photographic exhibitions.
    The Turners would be a security risk but there must be lesser artists worthy of a viewing. Gyrth Russell (Penarth) springs readily to mind. Richard Short’s (Cardiff) seascapes, Elizabeth Lewis’s (Cardiff) resins and jewellery.
    And what about the treasures still hidden away in the stores of the museum? Archaeological, Zoological, all the -ologies in fact.
    Elsewhere there are Edward Sharlands’ (Bristol) etchings. Other galleries perhaps could be persuaded to curate exhibitions – Francis Towne from the West Country, Thomas Jones come to mind.
    I remember going to a madrigal concert in the Turner many years ago. It was just right for the building and the contents. There was an antique fair on one occasion in Penarth in the Paget Rooms, also a model railway show but the Turner House, if successful, wouldn’t harm the “Pag” that much on a day-only basis. The Farmer’s market could move into the Paget Rooms. This would enable them to open their arms to local traders.

  5. Big Dave says:

    But is it art? Really?

Comments are closed.