Things to see and do at the Folkestone Triennial 2017

Published 21 August 2017

Filling the coastal town of Folkestone in Kent with public art and inspiring events, Folkestone Triennial returns for its fourth instalment this year. Here’s our guide to making the most of it.

We do like to be beside the seaside – especially when there are 20 new artist commissions to discover. For this year’s event, visual arts festival Folkestone Triennial welcomes work by artists including 2017 Turner Prize nominee Lubaina Himid, Antony Gormley and David Shrigley, all of which will be located around the town. These new pieces join the 27 works from previous Triennials already on display, including Cornelia Parker’s Folkestone Mermaid – so if you’re planning a visit this September, there’s certainly plenty to see.

Accompanying the commissions is a packed programme of talks, tours and trips to help you explore the ideas behind the art, as well as the history of Folkestone. We’ve selected a few highlights below.

Opening symposium

The festival opens with a one-day symposium, On the Edge: Time and Truth (2 Sep), where many of this year’s commissioned artists will talk about their projects and unpack the festival’s title, 'double edge'.

The day is split into two parts: a keynote from philosopher Julian Baggini addressing concepts of truth and ‘post-truth’ in the context of art, and a look at the notion of time and its relation to art, the sea and Folkestone.

Highlights include Lubaina Himid talking about tidal time in her life and work, and Alex Hartley with Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas discussing their work in relation to natural resources and energy.

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Double Talk salons

Every Wednesday evening during the Triennial, you can hear artists and experts offer thoughts on their work and the 'double edge' theme.

Events include artist Gary Woodley exploring the edge between mathematics and art (11 Oct), and Bob and Roberta Smith reflecting on FOLKESTONE IS AN ART SCHOOL (1 Nov), his initiative that aims to prove young people can get an art-school education without leaving the town – as shouted from the rooftops by several giant, colourful banners, supported by donors through an Art Happens campaign.

Talks are followed by the chance to ask questions, and free drinks.

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Critics’ tours

Every Saturday, art critics and historians will be leading tours taking in around half of the festival commissions. There are morning and afternoon tours, so if you’d like to see all of the commissions it’s recommended to book yourself on to one of each.

Participating critics include Skye Sherwin of the Guardian (2 Sep), Sculpture Now author Anna Moszynska (23 Sep) and Oliver Basciano, international editor at ArtReview and ArtReview Asia (4 Nov).

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Field trips and study days

You can learn more about the research behind this year’s themes through a special programme of visits, study groups and workshops.

Sure to be popular is a visit to Dungeness Sound Mirrors (17 Sep) to help illuminate the ideas behind Marc Schmitz and Dolgor Ser-Od’s commission, which acts as a giant amplifier and microphone on the East cliff of Folkestone.

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National Student Days

Finally, if you’re an undergraduate or postgraduate student or member of faculty, you can take part in one of the Triennial’s National Student Days (18 & 19 Oct), which include guided tours, talks and workshops from artists and Triennial curator Lewis Biggs, plus a tea-time quiz with prizes.

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The artists commissioned for Folkestone Triennial 2017 are: Studio Ben Allen, Rigo 23, Sol Calero, Michael Craig-Martin, Diane Dever and The Decorators, Antony Gormley, Alex Hartley, Lubaina Himid, Emily Peasgood, Amalia Pica, Marc Schmitz + Dolgor Ser-Od, David Shrigley, Bob and Roberta Smith, Sinta Tantra, Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas, HoyCheong Wong, Gary Woodley, Bill Woodrow, Richard Woods, Jonathan Wright.

Folkestone Triennial 2017 runs from 2 September to 5 November 2017. For more on the event and the town’s cultural regeneration, including artist Bob and Roberta Smith on why Folkestone is an art school, read Jennifer Thatcher’s feature in the autumn issue of Art Quarterly, published on 1 September and available exclusively to Art Fund members. Find out more about becoming a member.

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