Hastings Contemporary (formerly the Jerwood Gallery) is a contemporary art gallery on The State in Hastings’ Old Town. It opened in March 2012 with a permanent art collection of works by leading contemporary British artists but the gallery is now focused primarily on hosting a programme of temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art.
There was significant public opposition to the gallery before it was constructed with many opponents stating that it would destroy the character of the local area. However, it is a fairly low-key structure that is clad with glossy black tiles that mimic the style of the nearby black timber ‘net shops’ and it is certainly a much more attractive building than the coach park that it replaced.
A dispute with the gallery’s main stakeholder, the Jerwood Foundation, means that the art museum has recently rebranded itself as Hastings Contemporary (it was formerly called the Jerwood Gallery) with a greater focus on hosting a programme of temporary exhibitions.
Also due to the dispute with the Jerwood Foundation, the gallery will have lost a large portion of its permanent collection by November 2019.
What to see at Hastings Contemporary
Prior to rebranding as Hastings Contemporary, the gallery was anchored by a permanent collection that included works by many leading British contemporary artists. The gallery is now primarily focused on hosting a programme of temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary (mostly) British art.
Current and upcoming temporary exhibitions include:
Roy Oxlade: Shine Out Fair Sun
The Roy Oxlade: Shine Out Fair Sun exhibition (until 6 October 2019) focuses on the work of Roy Oxlade (1929–2014), whom the Guardian described as ‘one of the most impressive British painters of the last 50 years’.
Quentin Blake: The New Dress
Sir Quentin Blake is one of Hasting Contemporary’s most exhibited artists and this exhibition (running until 6 October 2019) features a series of new drawings depicting characters modelling dresses fashioned from folded or wrapped paper. The exhibition was inspired by the rebranding and transformation of the gallery.
Roy Oxlade & David Bomberg
The Roy Oxlade & David Bomberg exhibition (until 6 October 2019) showcases the work of David Bomberg (1890–1957) alongside paintings by Roy Oxlade, who also has a solo exhibition running concurrently at the gallery.
Tal R: eventually all museums will be ships
This exhibition (running until 13 October 2019) is comprised of works by Danish artist Tal R, which features contemporary works, many of which have a seaside theme that fits in well with the Hastings local.
This exhibition (19 October 2019–5 January 2020) is a retrospective exhibition of the work of Victor Willing (1928–1988). The exhibition includes work from all periods of the British artist’s career and it includes drawing, painting and sculpture.
Visiting Hastings Contemporary
Hastings Contemporary is on Rock-A-Nore Road near The Stade in the Old Town area of Hastings. It is close to the net shops, Hastings’ unique fishermen’s storage sheds, and it is just a short walk to other points of interest in the Old Town including the Blue Reef Aquarium, the Fishermen’s Museum and the Shipwreck Museum.
Unique among major art museums, Hastings Contemporary is not air-conditioned. Precise climate control is less of an issue with galleries focusing on contemporary art and the lack for air-conditioning means that the interior of the gallery is more closely connected with its immediate environs. Fortunately, the mild climate of the south coast means that the lack of air-conditioning is only an issue for most visitors just a couple of days each year.
The admission charge is rather high considering the size of the gallery and the fact that many free galleries offer a much more impressive permanent collection. Entry is half price with the National Art Pass and free 4pm–8pm on the first Tuesday of each month.
Webbe’s at Hastings Contemporary is the gallery’s own in-house cafe, which has a focus on seasonal ingredients including fresh locally-caught seafood. Prices are reasonable considering the standard of food and the seaside location. You can’t visit the cafe without first buying an entry ticket for the gallery but there is another branch of Webbe’s just across the road and there are plenty of pubs and fish and chips shops just a short walk away.
It is a relatively small gallery and a visit shouldn’t take much longer than an hour to so.