It is no coincidence that the opening exhibition at Bournemouth’s huge new contemporary art gallery is called Big Medicine. The town centre is ailing and badly needs a shot in its metaphorical arm.
The 15,000 square foot privately-funded gallery, called appropriately enough GIANT, covers the entirety of the second floor of the old Debenham’s building in The Square. It is part of a much needed plan to inject some life, creativity and culture back into the badly run-down shopping centre.
Big Medicine, which opened last night, does the job admirably. Curated by Bournemouth artist Stuart Semple, the exhibition and the GIANT gallery space is part of the first phase of a project that will see the old building reborn as Bobby’s which was for many years a much-loved and historic retail landmark in the town
The free show features the work of major international artists like Jake and Dinos Chapman, Jim Lambie, Gavin Turk, Gary Card, Nicky Carvell, Paola Ciarska, Eva Cremers, Chad Person, Anthony Rodinone and Paul Trefry.
Not only are the works truly thought-provoking, like the Chapman brothers suicide vests cast in bronze and sometimes loaded with art materials but the whole exhibition is world-class. How wonderful that it has been brought to Bournemouth a town that has so much going for it but in recent years has been branded “a cultural desert”.
Meanwhile the GIANT gallery also has a dedicated Project Space which is featuring Why We Shout – the Art of Protest. Curated by Lee Cavaliere, director of VOMA, the world’s first virtual museum in association with Greenpeace, it examines ways in which contemporary artists respond and contribute to protest and activism.
With works by Banksy, US feminist Martha Rosler, Turner-Prize winner Jeremy Deller, Hong Kong activist-artist Kacey Wong, trans photographer Bex Wade and others it covers climate change, environmental struggles, the illegal rave scene of the 90s, LGBTQ + issues and much more.