Folkestone Artworks, the UK’s largest urban contemporary art exhibition, is free and accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Sited outdoors around the town and harbour, the artworks pop up in both scenic and surprising locations. The changing exhibition, currently consisting of 74 artworks by 46 artists – including Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Yoko Ono, Mark Wallinger, Cornelia Parker, Bill Woodrow, Michael Craig-Martin and Ian Hamilton Finlay – offers an experience like nowhere else in the world: great contemporary art with an invitation to explore, examine and understand the town’s geography, history and potential future.
With only one or two exceptions, the artworks have been made by the artist with the specific site in mind, so the urban context is ‘borrowed’ to become a part of the artwork. The richness and ‘reality’ of this process creates a different kind of exhibition from those in galleries. For instance, Cornelia Parker’s The Folkestone Mermaid brings an international ‘mythologised’ perspective to celebrate a local woman sitting on a rock, alongside other people on the beach. Mark Wallinger’s Folk Stones were collected locally and embedded in concrete on The Leas, resonating with other adjacent memorials.
A unique presentation of outstanding contemporary art, Folkestone Artworks also tells a variety of stories about the town. Some stories have already inspired brilliant artists; others come from residents and visitors who, inspired by the artworks, form a deeper appreciation of the town’s past, present and future, both conceptually and emotionally.
The Folkestone Artworks exhibition is a major cultural attraction, continuously ‘refreshed’ by Folkestone Triennial, which has been creating great media interest since 2008. The exhibition brings tens of thousands of visitors to the town every year, generating an economic return worth many times the investment made. It also provides a continuously developing resource to many local artists and educators - contributing significant weight to Bob and Roberta Smith’s view that FOLKESTONE IS AN ART SCHOOL. Folkestone Artworks is maintained and cared for by Creative Folkestone on behalf of the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust.
While the exhibition is on view 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a small number of the artworks have restricted access either as a result of the opening hours of public buildings or physical conditions (e.g. tides).