Hastings Contemporary: A review of our spectacular opening month

Hastings Contemporary opened their doors for the first time to the public on Saturday 6th July. In the week leading up to the opening, the gallery welcomed over 1,000 guests to various launch events including children and schools, the local community, Members and Donors and even a Royal visit. Hastings Contemporary was honoured that His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester expressed a personal interest in the opening of the gallery, meeting the team and having the first view of the exciting new exhibitions.

With the official opening led by Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, it was a great opportunity to look to the future. Liz Gilmore, Director, Hastings Contemporary comments: “We were overwhelmed by the support of our industry peers, galleries and artists who have played such an important part in our journey so far.  As a charity, we rely on the continued support of our Members, Patrons and Donors and we were so pleased to be able to say ‘THANK YOU’ to those individuals at the gallery with various special Private Views of the exhibitions”. The gallery continues to rely on the support of Patrons and Donors- you can support by joining as a member here

Once open to the public, the gallery held a special ‘Free Tuesday’ on the evening of 9 July which saw over 400 visitors through the door to watch a bespoke performance by the talented teachers and pupils from Hastings School of Contemporary Dance.

The current exhibitions continue until October: Tal R: eventually all museums will be ships, Roy Oxlade: Shine Out Fair Sun, Roy Oxlade & David Bomberg and Quentin Blake: The New Dress. Hastings Contemporary hosts a number of special events throughout the summer including creative workshops and storytelling from Hastings Storytelling Festival, professional writing workshops from Hastings Litfest, two illustrated lectures on the work of David Bomberg, and the monthly ‘First Free Tuesdays’ which allows free entry for all every first Tuesday of the month from 4pm.

From October 19th to January 20th, Hastings Contemporary will hold the first major UK retrospective of work by British artist Victor Willing (1928-1988) since his death, charting each decade of his tumultuous life and career from his time at the Slade, his life in Portugal, and back to London and his untimely death from multiple sclerosis.  

As part of Hastings Contemporary’s ambitious and expanded programme, the exhibition will feature key loans from Tate, Casa das Histórias Paula Rego, Pallant House Gallery, Arts Council Collection and private collections, bringing the best of Victor Willing’s works to the South Coast. The exhibition will offer visitors a chance to encounter the work of this ground-breaking artist, whose determined, large-scale paintings illustrate phases of domestic life with his wife and fellow artist, Paula Rego (b.1935) and their family, as well as darker periods of emotional difficulty.    

Victor Willing: Visions will bring to life Willing’s varied artistic output from training in the late 1940s and early 1950s, his life in Portugal with his young family through the 1960s, and their return to London in the mid-1970s through to late 1980s.  The exhibition will premiere a new short film of Victor Willing’s life and career by his son and celebrated filmmaker, Nick Willing following on from his BBC Two documentary ‘Paula Rego: Secrets and Stories’ alongside unseen material from the family archives.   

Liz Gilmore, Director, Hastings Contemporary comments: “This hugely important exhibition, commanding almost the entire gallery space puts Victor Willing back into the public spotlight. Willing is an artist who has and continues to inspire generations of artists. This groundbreaking show draws work from collections across Europe and reflects the new ambitious programming of Hastings Contemporary.” 

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