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29 Nov

Pair share vision for world-class art venue

Art for Guernsey, Press & Editions

A WORLD-CLASS art venue on the St Peter Port seafront will repay the cost many times over through an ‘amazing’ public-private partnership, say its proposers.

David Ummels and Stretch Kontelj have joined forces to put forward their ambitious vision to turn the tourist visitor centre into an iconic art gallery – which they believe will be a ‘catalyst’ to broader rejuvenation of the seafront.Crucially, the taxpayer would not be asked to foot all the costs of the new art gallery. The States would be asked to refit the building, which could cost up to £5m. A group of philanthropists would underwrite the ongoing costs for a number of years. Mr Ummels – a passionate art collector and founder of Art for Guernsey – has also offered to become CEO on a pro bono basis for several years as the new not-for-profit gallery became established. The building would be rented on a peppercorn rate.‘We are in a position of readiness, able to curate and deliver our first exhibition of international standard as soon as the venue is available. ‘Namely, a number of world class British 18th century Old Masters and a street art exhibition involving three or four major Banksy artworks,’ said a document outlining the plan submitted by the pair to the States for consideration ‘Conservatively, the high-level economic benefits, generated directly and indirectly by the presence of the Guernsey iconic art venue, are estimated at an equivalent of 0.5% of gross domestic product after three years of full operations. ‘This makes the initial investment required by the States look extremely lucrative in return.’ It also said: ‘This opportunity has received support from representatives in all sectors, including a large number of key local stakeholders: numerous table sponsors of Locate Guernsey, Chamber, IoD, tier one corporates and institutions, local entrepreneurs, significant locally-based art collectors, art insurers, and prominent members of the creative, artistic, charitable and philanthropic sectors.’ The blueprint submitted to the States also stressed the importance of holistically integrating the venue into its local landscape ‘from an architectural, but also from an urbanistic and economic point of view, so that the use of the venue space and the directly adjacent public park, is properly optimised.

‘The full potential and the ambition of the iconic art venue can be realised if the appropriate consideration is given to its place and the relationship to its surroundings’.

The development of such a venue would be a ‘massive asset’ that would deliver economic, cultural and educational benefits valued at around £15m. within three years of full operation.It could also change external perceptions of the island as solely being a finance centre to one that was ‘cool’ and had ‘amazing’ community values. ‘We have an excellent opportunity to locally source artworks of international quality either from institutions such as pension funds or locally based art collectors that in my view would say so much positive about Guernsey,’ added Mr Ummels. ‘That is unique and I am not aware of anywhere else in the world we can do that.’ As well locally sourced artwork, the high level executive team would also build links with other galleries and museums internationally to bring exhibitions to the island. Mr Ummels said: ‘We want to do something that has not been done before. We want to do an amazing public private partnership with the island bringing the best it can.’ Mr Kontelj said the gallery could help make Guernsey a destination location, attracting new visitors to the island and starting a positive domino effect.

The art venue could become a cultural stop-off for visitors, including from cruise ships for example, who would snap up tickets for exhibitions. ‘We believe in art in a way to achieve quantifiable and measurable goals, and to improve our community and lifestyle and drive economic growth. We hope this project could be the catalyst for the waterfront regeneration.’’ added Mr Kontelj.

Article by the Guernsey Press.

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