Bournemouth is now home to Giant, an independently-funded 15,000-square-foot arts centre that hopes to become the south coast’s new hub for contemporary art.
The space, located in the redevelopment of part of a former Debenhams department store, is the result of a collaboration between Ashley Nicholson, the owner of the site, and Bournemouth-born artist Stuart Semple.
The gallery opened on 7 August with two exhibitions. One of them, Big Medicine (until 31 October), is curated by Semple and features works by internationally-renowned artists such as Jake and Dinos Chapman, Jim Lambie and Gavin Turk.
The exhibition examines the importance of the arts in healing cultural wounds through shared experience, an increasingly significant area since the seismic shift of mental health and wellbeing throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Though many areas of our lives have become digital, the exhibition invites audiences into a world of physicality and interactivity.
Big Medicine is Semple’s statement of intent for the gallery’s future in Bournemouth. As Giant’s director, he hopes the space positions itself as a creative community centre with international scope for a small, previously “culturally under-served” seaside town.
The second exhibition, titled Why We Shout – The Art of Protest (until 19 September), is in collaboration with Greenpeace and includes work by British artists Jeremy Deller and Banksy.
A group show, Why We Shout explores the ways in which contemporary artists are responding and contributing to protest and activism. With the right to protest under threat in many countries across the globe, the exhibition looks at protest's origins, outlets and impact on wider culture, bringing together renowned artists to discuss its relevance in contemporary society.
The show's curator, Lee Cavaliere, is the director of Voma, the world’s first virtual museum created for digital. Why We Shout will run concurrently with a Voma exhibition, featuring some of the same artists and taking a more historical view of protest.
“I'm really happy with the way the gallery has been received, I was never expecting the reaction,” Semple said of Giant's inaugural weekend. “We've been busy since we opened, seeing nearly 1,000 visitors yesterday and a huge queue for the opening. I'm so happy to have been able to share work of this calibre with my hometown.
“The vision of the owners of Bobby's [the department store building housing the gallery] about community, the arts and the building serving the public is a truly beautiful thing, and I'm grateful that they've put their faith in us to create something like this for the town.”