Pantyhose and an inflatable Tina prove Margate’s cultural clout extends beyond Turner Prize

Oscar Murillo's new site specific installation of unstretched canvases and effigies in the Turner Prize exhibition Courtesy Louisa Buck

Before the London art world became gripped by the maw of this years Frieze, it descended southwards en-masse to Margate for a blast of bracing sea air and an early dose of contemporary art. JMW Turner once described the skies of Margate as “the loveliest in all of Europe”. Now a major draw to this coastal town is the fact that for the first time his namesake Turner prize is being hosted in Margates Turner Contemporary gallery, serendipitously situated on the site of the guesthouse where the artist used to stay and dally with his landlady.

This years Turner nominee lineup of Tai Shani, Helen Cammock, Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Oscar Murillo is particularly strong (my two front-runners are Abu Hamdan and Murillo). In a nice embellishment on the southward pilgrimage of the art ranks, just before the shows opening Murillos twenty or so life-sized fabric and papier-mâché figures of workers had also made their own unorthodox journey south to Margate. Instead of being packed into an art handlers truck they were individually seated in wheelchairs and transported on public train from his North London studio.

Another eagerly anticipated unveiling was that of Gossamer, an exhibition devoted to hosiery in art at Carl Freedmans gallery, which has relocated from Shoreditch to a former printworks building in Margate's town centre. Curated by stylist and all-round cultural maven Zoe Bedeaux, this compelling show of major works by 22 artists confirms the enduring appeal of tights and stockings as a serious, versatile and richly associative medium. It combines the contemporary artists Sarah Lucas, Polly Borland, Gary Hume and Enam Gbewonyo with such historic works as a rarely seen Louise Bourgeois sculpture. photographs by Pierre Molinier and a revelatory series of 1970s stuffed tights by veteran French artist Marianne Berenhaut.

Bedeaux's live intervention at the opening night of Gossamer at Carl Freedman gallery Courtesy Louisa Buck

There are also photographs by Senga Nengudi, one of Allen Joness fetishistic sculptures and Man Rays photograph of his wife Juliet with a finely meshed stocking over her face. Bedeaux set a new standard of curatorial engagement on the opening night with her memorable "live intervention" which involved the impassioned recital of a poem-lament while entirely cocooned in thick pantyhose and trussed up with lengths of rope.

More shenanigans also took place at the simultaneous inauguration of Margate Now!, a new culture-fest permeating every part of town from a 24-hour disco in a former Primark store to handmade metal goods buried on the beach. Margate Now! is guest curated by actor and art patron Russell Tovey who, although a diehard Essex boy, loves Margate so much that he is buying a flat there. And hes not the only one. Margates most famous daughter Tracey Emin has also purchased an extensive chunk of property adjacent to Freedmans gallery which she is in the process of turning into painting and sculpture studios as well as a substantial home for herself. A derelict Georgian building has also been Read More – Source