Art lovers in Derry have expressed their “disappointment” at the loss of an Ebrington gallery space which hosted the most prestigious modern art competition in the UK a matter of years ago.
The Derry News exclusively revealed that Nerve Visual is set to close its doors at the end of this week.
Artists based in the city say we should “demand” that this space is used to showcase the local arts scene and, if properly promoted, it will prove to be a “massive draw” for both tourists and the local community.
Since the announcement, people who are passionate about arts and culture have aired their views.
National Museum NI curator, Kim Mawhinney, said: “I am devastated to hear this. We worked with Nerve Visual to bring two of our most impactful exhibitions from the Ulster Museum to Derry.”
The exhibitions referred to are Silent Testimony and Art of the Troubles. “Derry needs this gallery!” she added.
The Nerve Centre reopened the former Turner Prize gallery space as Nerve Visual in June 2016 when it was lauded as a “major new venue for visual arts in the Northern Ireland”.
A spokesperson for the Nerve Centre said it has received no core funding and was programmed and funded on a project by project basis.
In just over three years it has hosted 13 successful exhibitions.
However, writer and art critic Dominic Kearney said he couldn’t understand why it was so poorly attended, particularly as the Turner Prize was such a success at the same location.
Nerve Visual only took over a section of the Creative Hub/Building 80/81 in 2016 but during the City of Culture year in 2013 the same gallery space hosted the prestigious Turner Prize - one of the best-known visual arts prizes in the world.
Mr Kearney believes the location is “terrific” and “exactly” what Ebrington needs. “The space is perfect for a gallery and the exhibitions that they had there were very impressive.
“The Troubles Art exhibition, Future Artist Makers and the Colin Davidson one was stunning, I’d hesitate to say beautiful given the nature of its subject, but it was incredibly powerful.
“It’s the only gallery that’s open to the public in Derry that deals with mainstream, accessible, representational art. For this to close is really going to detract from the local art scene, from Ebrington, the Waterside and Derry as a whole. Like a pebble dropped in a pond, the ripple effect will spread out from that building to the outer ring of the entire city.”
He added: “It’s such a shame, in six years it’s gone from hosting the most prestigious modern art competition in UK to a couple of empty rooms.
“People can only have so many cups of coffee, tourists need something to do when visiting the city. If there was a gallery dedicated to Irish art with links to galleries in Dublin, the Ulster Museum, and maybe Britain. Tourists would definitely want to go there as galleries are the type of thing people look for.”
Local artists were regularly showcased at the Nerve Visual gallery.
Stephen Lewis has lived in Derry for over 20 years, he’s an artist based at Bishop Street Studios who also works with the arts charities Creative Village Arts and ArtLink at Fort Dunree. He expressed his “disappointment” at the gallery’s closure.
“There have been recent initiatives by the Nerve Visual, Tower Museum and An Culturalann to give folk here a chance to see art that is held in their own national collections - but it simply goes back to the inability to keep a space that is equipped to do this open.
“People in the North West should not have to travel to Belfast to see their own art - The Ulster Museum often has 2 or 3 art exhibitions on at any one time - we built a world class gallery in 2013 and we really should demand that this becomes our space to see our own art collections - properly advertised it could be a massive draw for locals and tourists alike."
It’s understood there will be plenty of people interested in taking over occupancy of the building but at this stage it is unclear what will be based there.
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