Folkestone Triennial

4 October 2017

Our third Curators’ Days in partnership with Art Fund took place this September at Folkestone Triennial. We heard from Triennial curator, Lewis Biggs and architect Ben Allen whose studio won the commission for the Quarterhouse redesign. Lewis also took us on an exhibition tour to view this year's Triennial commissions. 


We invited Arts & Culture Producer Emma Wilcox to takeover the blog and share her Curators’ Day experience…


We assembled at Folkestone’s Quarterhouse, which for this year’s Triennial has been transformed into the festival’s hub. The first-floor café/bar installation, commissioned from Studio Ben Allen, turns what was an underused space into a thriving information point and social space.


(Read Emma's full account below)




Speaker 1 - Lewis Biggs, curator Folkestone Triennial

The Arts Council Collection : Folkestone Triennial

Our first speaker was Triennial curator Lewis Biggs who gave an overview of the Creative Foundation, paying tribute to Roger de Haan’s vision for the town, using creativity as the driving force for its regeneration, to facilitate greater engagement in the urban fabric of the whole town, including areas previously overlooked.

Thoughts on curation:

“Being a curator you must understand audiences and understand the specifics of place and how ‘place’ influences how we look and understand. And of course, as a curator you must understand art! But the knowledge of audience is paramount, you stand in for the audience and leave the artist to get on with the art making. That is their skill. And for the artists, the curator has a vital role, my job is to know Folkestone, its history and economy, the place, the geography and the geology, its people and to share that knowledge with the artists.”


Speaker 2 - Ben Allen, Studio Ben Allen

Ben gave an overview of Studio Ben Allen who were commissioned for the Quarterhouse. Ben explained that the brief was very open; it was given as an art commission which set up an interesting creative tension.

“We like the lines that define us as architects, and we like going close to those lines, but not crossing them.”

The work drew on a number of influences; the forest, exotic forms drawn from pre-Bauhaus German architecture’s verticality, as well as Gothic architecture. It was eventually made, working with a CNC cutter to create the structures directly from digital drawings. Ben drew attention to the fact that specialists they worked with are very much still highly skilled ‘craftsmen’ and the work was developed with their input. Once the design was complete, it was cut in less than a week and built in just three days.


The Arts Council Collection : Folkestone Triennial

Exhibition Tour

Following the morning sessions Lewis kindly led a tour of the artworks. A core group of artworks are located within easy reach of the Quarterhouse, including Jonathan Wright’s Fleet on Foot, delicate golden boats atop a series of posts along Tontine Street, each one a replica of the seven working boats which remain in Folkestone’s harbour.  At the top of Tontine Street, Sinta Tantra’s vast colourful work 1947 is located close to one of Amalia Pica’s Souvenir shell sculptures. Through these delicate objects the artist prompts us to think about the edge between craft and art. Some have been cast in bronze for outdoor display, whilst others are located inside houses, pubs and shops, their residents acting as custodians of the works.


We visited Emily Peasgood’s Halfway to Heaven, a sound work installed in an abandoned Baptist burial ground, located 20 feet above street level which requires visitors to be present in order for the work to be activated and for them to co-operate with one another in order to experience the full work. HoyCheong Wong’s Minaret is a work which both draws attention to and celebrates Folkestone’s Islamic Community Centre, housed in an industrial building. Whilst it has served as a place of worship for the last twenty-eight years, its previously anonymous frontage meant many residents of Folkestone were unaware of its existence.


The Arts Council Collection : Folkestone Triennial

The same could not be said of Richard Woods’ Holiday Homes, whose bright structures are impossible not to spot across the town, six in total. We visited a number of them, the first located at the back of the Quarterhouse on a traffic island, another floating in the harbour. Michael Craig-Martin’s Folkestone Lightbulb acts as a welcome point, at the gateway to the Old Town. Across the town, from the station to the harbour and up onto the cliff tops, Bob and Roberta Smith’s commission acclaims Folkestone is an Art School, a statement of intent and call to action.  

Crossing the harbour on the newly accessible viaduct we visited Customs House:Urban Room a commission by Diane Dever and The Decorators. Diane took time to speak about the purpose and function of the Urban Room as a space for dialogue and debate on issues related to Folkestone’s regeneration and future development

Finally, Lewis took us along the extraordinary harbour arm to visit one of two installations by Antony Gormley, Another Time, set under the walkway and covered over by the rising tide twice a day. As we stood and looked back up towards the town from the top of the harbour, we were able to fully take in the scale of the town and to locate works by Lubaina Himid and Sol Calero to the west and Marc Schmitz + Dolgor Ser-Od to the east. For the final part of the day we explored the remaining artworks at our leisure.


Find out more about Arts Council Collection Curators’ Days.

See Lubaina Himid’s current show Lubaina Himid: Meticulous Observations and Naming the Money at Walker Art Gallery which features Lubaina's Arts Council Collection works as well as her own selections from our Collection.

The Arts Council Collection : Folkestone Triennial

The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.