After not being able to see anything properly at the preview, Amor and I decided that we would like to come back to see The Dark Monarch exhibition when it was less busy.
While reading the brochure for the exhibition, under Talks, tours and activities, I noticed that they were offering The Dark Monarch tour on the 4th of February at 11:30am. This tour was going to be addressed by Sara Cooper, The Towner Collection Curator and was billed as free. In The Towner Exhibitions & Events Winter Spring 2010 brochure, they also list The Dark Monarch tour as free. In one of the e-mails I received for the preview, there was a mention of the free tour and booking a place was recommended. So I did. At the time of booking my place, there was only one other person on the list. I am not one for bypassing a free offer, and as one must pay £5.50 to enter the exhibition, I thought this was a good deal. Apparently, I was not the only one to think so.
I arrived about ten minutes early to have a look around the gallery shop, and just before the tour was due to start I was told that I needed to purchase a ticket. I told the lady that it was a free tour. She told me that there was a change of plans. I told her it was printed on two pieces of literature, which I showed to her. She concurred and agreed that it should be free based on the wording, but she was under instructions. I stood my ground and she said she would have to call someone, all the while agreeing with me.
Meanwhile, there was a little crowd gathering around, some had previously purchased tickets. Eventually a young woman came downstairs and explained that The Dark Monarch was a paying exhibition, but only the tour was free. I told her that it wasn’t mentioned in the brochure, just that the tour for that day was billed as free. I also told her that no-one mentioned that I would have to pay when I reserved my place. I then mentioned the other free daily tours and asked what the difference was. She explained that the daily tour is a general tour of the building and free exhibition (A Different View in the Collection Gallery until 11 April 2010). There is an option to continue the tour of The Dark Monarch, but then customers must pay the entrance fee to get in before carrying on with the tour. OK, I got that. However, this was a one-off tour of The Dark Monarch hosted by the curator and was billed as free. There was no other tour listed. She said that the person who wrote the brochure made a mistake. I told her that wasn’t my problem. I could see the young woman’s mind turning over while I stood my ground. While she was working out what next to say, there were people arguing with the curator about the same thing. Quite a few people came for the free tour. Some raised their voices. They came because in the brochure it said the tour was free and people like things that are free.
Apparently I started something. 🙂 I surprised myself by remaining calm, but very firm, while others were getting agitated. To avoid holding up everyone else, the young lady suggested that I go on the tour and we would work something out afterwards. OK.
I am not going to go into the ins and outs of the tour, but I will say that I found it extremely enjoyable and informative. Sara Cooper is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Her presentation came off as very warm and genuine and not at all pretentious. She was happy to answer any questions. While she was talking, I had an opportunity to have a good look at the artwork that I had missed at the preview. There are some genuinely beautiful photographs and paintings and I was pleasantly surprised at what I had seen.
Then we came to the Damian Hirst piece. We learned how the installation was put together. I won’t ruin the magic for you and especially Amor as he was already fairly distraught about the demise of this little Unicorn.
So, the main part of the tour went extremely well. Then we all went downstairs to the second part in Exhibition Hall 1. This was where Amor and I lost the plot at the preview. I did learn that the bookcase containing the occult books and literature wasn’t actually made as a piece of art, but was part of Ithell Colquhoun’s library and which had survived a fire that she died in. How weird is that? In any event, it is not stopping Amor from increasing his collection of diving books and magazines where he hopes to make a fortune by calling it art. Unfortunately, that was all I got from this second half of the tour as I may have gone a bit catatonic and lost the plot again and never found out about the piece that looked like it came from Ikea.
At the end of the tour, the young lady that I had spoken to earlier came up to me and asked if I enjoyed the tour. I told her that I enjoyed it immensely and that I will be coming back with Amor to see it again. The plan was always to come back and see the exhibition together, but I couldn’t pass up a free tour to learn more about it. Now when Amor and I go together, I can give him a free tour! 🙂
Apparently the young lady had some time to calm down from our earlier exchange and we were able to have a very nice chat about the gallery and the exhibitions. Nothing more was said about paying for the tour. It was a bit unfortunate that someone else’s mistake could cause this kind of confusion, but sometimes these things happen. The Towner Gallery is relatively new and I guess that it is going to take a little bit of time before things run smoothly and without any hiccups. In any event, I am very happy that we have an art gallery like this in Eastbourne, my new home.
The Dark Monarch Exhibition is on until the 21st of March 2010. If you want to have a tour and learn more about it, you will have to take the general free tour at 11:30am and then pay for The Dark Monarch before resuming the tour. I think you might enjoy it. This exhibition is on loan from The Tate Gallery in St. Ives and the entrance fee is a bit less at The Towner than at The Tate. It is very easy to take the train from Victoria (or Clapham Junction) to Eastbourne and a day return ticket can cost as little as £6. The journey takes about an hour and a half, and is much closer than St. Ives. If you are lucky and the weather is lovely, you can take a walk along the promenade afterwards! 🙂