As the Folkestone Triennial draws to a close, our thoughts turn to which artist's work will join the permanent Folkestone Artworks collection. This 'gallery without walls' is made up from 27 works from the past 3 Triennials by artists including Tracey Emin, Mark Wallinger, Pablo Bronstein, Yoko Ono and Richard Wilson.
A friend recently asked how often the Triennial came to Folkestone as I was always talking about it. I told her the clue is in the name! Every 3 years artists are commissioned to create public installations that form an art trail around the town. We love the lead up to the event – discovering which artists will be exhibiting and what the theme will be. This year was particularly exciting as we were one of 3 agencies shortlisted in a 3-stage pitch for the Triennial branding. A great achievement for Salt and something we are keen to win in the future.
This is our 2nd Triennial since relocating from London 6 years ago. Attracting creatives and tourists to the area by 'rebranding' Folkestone as a creative hub is the Creative Foundation's mission – with the Triennial being their flagship project. And it seems to be taking hold. There’s a definite buzz in the Creative Quarter this year, with local artists referring to the ‘Triennial effect’ increasing their sales as tourists look to take away a piece of the action.
Hitting the art trail with a 6 year old means it's as much about the experience as it is the concepts behind the pieces. There was a beautifully designed family guide this year to keep the kids engaged, as well as a programme of free family workshops at Block 67, Tontine Street. Here's what we've enjoyed and whether we think they will stay.
Richard Woods' colourful cartoon holiday homes were standout pieces for us – with 6 homes to spot floating in the harbour and dotted around the beach and cliff tops. Like the seasonal residents that inspired these installations, they are surely temporary. Midway through the 2014 Triennial a Banksy piece entitled 'Art Buff' appeared. Unfortunately these 'Holiday Homes' have been decorated with less welcome graffiti.
Likewise, the Antony Gormley cast-iron figures, which despite looking very much at home beneath arches or staring out to sea, were only ever visiting.
A teetering white wall by Alex Hartley is perhaps the most immediate expression of this year's theme 'Double Edge' – exploring anxiety (being on the edge), boundaries and balance. Its future seems precarious.
When we visited Lubaina Himid’s ‘Jelly Mould Pavilion' it was being used to frame a bride and groom on their wedding day – already paying its way as a local landmark!
We enjoyed discovering new parts of Folkestone and gaining new perspectives. Sometimes it's as simple as looking up – to see Jonathan Wright's little boats perched on tall poles, or taking a moment to listen, to Emily Peasgood's sound installation 'Halfway to Heaven' in an18th-century Baptist graveyard. We’d like to think the giant 'Siren' by Marc Schmitz and Dolgor Ser-Od could have the longevity of the concrete 'listening ear' at nearby Dungeness that it references.
A Guardian review was not being complementary when it commented that some of the artworks ‘put design some way before art’, mentioning Sinta Tantra's colourful paintwork for the Cube Building and the Gothic plywood structure by Studio Ben Allen transforming the Quarterhouse Clearing Cafe. For us that is no bad thing. Art and design may have different roles, but they are both about emotional engagement. About challenging and changing perceptions. If art is about questions, design is about solutions, with the Triennial being one solution to the ongoing regeneration and repositioning of Folkestone.
The Folkestone Triennial finishes on 5th November. For more information www.folkestonetriennial.org.uk
Photography kindly provided by Kevan Smith www.smithstudios.co.uk