'City should be proud of its art collections'
PLYMOUTH'S bid to host the Turner Prize is a sign of the city's ambition, according to the boss of one of the world's leading art galleries.
Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery, London, said the city could expect "huge publicity" if the application to stage the ceremony and show were approved.
He said he hoped the Turner bid would stir up debate and be widely supported.
Whatever the result, Plymouth should be proud of its "remarkable" permanent collections of art and give them the attention they deserved, he said.
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Plymouth University has submitted the bid to host the Turner – the world's most famous contemporary art prize – in 2015.
The exhibition and ceremony would be expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors to the host venue, the Roland Levinsky Building on the North Hill campus.
Dr Penny was in Plymouth at the weekend for the opening of an exhibition at the City Museum and Art Gallery.
In Pursuit Of Art – staged in collaboration with the National – celebrates the contribution to UK culture by Plymothian Sir Charles Eastlake.
Dr Penny said: "By definition the (Turner) bid is a sign of the city's ambition.
"The idea of prizes is to generate publicity and the Turner Prize generates a huge amount.
"A lot of that attention is about controversy. But I would hope there would be wide support and an effort at proper debate.
"The media interest locally is vital in creating interest, and debate beyond the simple 'I like that' or 'I don't like that'."
He said he was concerned that attention given to contemporary art overshadowed older works. Plymouth should be proud of its collections of old masters and the contributions made by Plympton-born portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds and by Eastlake.
"Plymouth has made a remarkable contribution to British art and there are remarkable collections in Plymouth," said Dr Penny.
Eastlake was the first director of the National Gallery, from 1855 to his death in 1865 and is credited with acquiring for the nation some of the finest European masterpieces. He travelled widely and bought many of the paintings in person.
"I would say he was the greatest director the National Gallery has ever had," said Dr Penny.
The National houses art from the 13th century to 1900 and is the fourth-most-visited gallery in the world.
Plymouth's competitors for the staging of the Turner are not yet known: the deadline for entries is Friday. The prize is organised by the Tate, the modern art institution which has four galleries, two in London and one each in Liverpool and St Ives, Cornwall.
In Pursuit Of Art continues at the City Museum And Art Gallery until December 15.