Town mouse in Margate

A black  limousine draws up and out of it gets a man in dark glasses. Friends think it’s the Mafia, but no: this was the BBC’s car, taking me from Ramsgate to Margate’s Turner Contemporary gallery for the broadcast of Any Questions?. First, dinner at the Sands Hotel, a new hostelry which is the talk of Thanet. One can only marvel how far Margate has come since the old days, when parsley emulsion (an accompaniment to bresaola) would have been something you put on the walls. As the sun sank, Turnerishly, into the bay, the view from the terrace was dazzling.

There was only one local question to address: what did we make of the sale of Tracey Emin’s My Bed for £2.54 million? The artist is, famously, a Margate girl. In a market beloved of hedge-fund managers, calculating what they can flip for a profit, £2.54 million isn’t so much. Even so, we must applaud the purchaser, who has loaned it back to the Tate for at least 10 years. Baffling though it may be, contemporary art has a popular following. In Cheltenham, the local community is fighting to keep its Banksy Spy Booth mural in situ—although now it’s been vandalised by spray paint. Is that a case of the biter bit or the greatest compliment that a graffiti artist can receive?

** This article was first published in Country Life magazine on August 6 2014

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