A NEW 15,000 square-foot gallery has opened in the heart of Bournemouth having been the dream of its creator for 20 years.

Independently-funded arts centre GIANT opened in the former Debenhams building – soon to fully launch as Bobby’s – at the weekend with a raft of world famous artists displaying their work.

Founder of GIANT and artist Stuart Semple told the Daily Echo: “I have had it in my head for 20 years. I grew up in Bournemouth and I didn’t have this.

“When I was eight, my mum took me to London and I saw a (Vincent) van Gogh painting and it changed my life.

“I really believe there is something like postcode lottery where if I had lived in London my mum would have taken me to the Tate or the V&A because it is free and people who are born in Bournemouth haven’t had access to that.

“It is something I have always dreamed of doing.”

Hundreds of people queued in the street to visit the gallery on Saturday’s opening.

Bournemouth Echo: People queuing to enter the gallery on Saturday. Picture: GIANTPeople queuing to enter the gallery on Saturday. Picture: GIANT

The inaugural exhibition, Big Medicine, includes works by Jake and Dino Champman, Jim Lambie and Gavin Turk, while the site’s dedicated project space debuts with Why We Shout – the Art of Protest, curated by Lee Cavaliere.

Mr Semple said he sent a proposal similar to GIANT to Verve Properties Ltd, who took on the ownership of the former Debenhams site, three years ago.

After being on the back burner for some time, the studio finally came to fruition and he is grateful for the support from the property developer.

Bournemouth Echo: Stuart Semple at the art gallery. Picture: GIANTStuart Semple at the art gallery. Picture: GIANT

Discussing the positive feedback, Mr Semple said: “It means the world. I can’t believe how busy it has been.

“People have been like ‘will people come, will they get art, is Bournemouth ready’ and the answer is yes.”

Mr Semple said being able to exhibit work of such prominent artists was a privilege.

“Having them in Bournemouth is a huge deal for the town but also for me personally these are my heroes,” said Mr Semple.

“If these people hadn’t done what they did, I would have never known it was possible, I wouldn’t have done anything I have done, so to be able to show their work and have their support – I mean the Chapman brothers don’t need to lend Bournemouth their new bronze works.

“I just can’t believe we have pulled it off. This show is on for three months and then our next show will be an exhibition of radical feminism. Every six weeks the project space will change and we have almost finished renovating our events space, so we will be able to host Q&As, film screenings, in conversations, music.”

Bournemouth Echo: Stuart Semple with Chad Person’s inflatable sculpture UnderdogStuart Semple with Chad Person’s inflatable sculpture Underdog

He added: "I think there is something for everyone. You can go deep and conceptual with Martha Rosler’s work or you can enjoy Gary’s (Card’s) World.”

The gallery also has a gift shop and reading area, with plans for a cafe.

GIANT is open 11am to 6pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday. It is located on the right-hand side of the Bobby’s Building, next to Pret a Manger and entry is free.

Main exhibition: Big Medicine in focus

August 7 to November 28

An exhibition on both a grand and microscopic scale. From giant inflatables and immersive rooms to miniature paintings, by both internationally renowned artists and new emerging voices, this vast exhibition serves to celebrate and re-ignite a connection with one another in public space.

The show is an invitation to get physical, to play and to interact.

Bournemouth Echo: Chad Person's Underdog inflatable. Picture: GIANTChad Person's Underdog inflatable. Picture: GIANT

In ‘Big Medicine’, curator Mr Semple attempts to test the radical assumption that the experience of art could have a positive sociological effect on cultural wounding. Art itself could be the biggest cultural medicine we have.

Visitors are greeted by Chad Person’s gigantic inflatable sculpture Underdog, a cartoon canine in a superhero costume, staring down at his mobile phone, and Jake and Dinos Chapman present a series of bronze-cast suicide vests, the form of which is inspired by YouTube clips of suicide bombers.

Bournemouth Echo: Jake and Dinos Champman's latest work. Picture: GIANTJake and Dinos Champman's latest work. Picture: GIANT

The works, whilst reminiscent of Jeff Koons ‘Aqualung’ (1985), are hand painted in bright colours, featuring art materials where one would expect explosives. As one would expect from the brothers, a dialogue with death ensues, in which the risk and danger of being an artist is pitched against the power of the artist's conviction to fight for belief.

Bournemouth-born Gary Card returns to his hometown to create a fully immersive installation based on the ‘Hysterical’ world he built at Phillips auction house in London in 2019. Paul Trefry, well-known for photo realistic sculptures that question societal issues such as loneliness or homelessness, exhibits two works previously unseen in the UK – one a double life-sized sculpture of homeless man, the other a tiny old lady, waiting indefinitely on a park bench for a husband who never arrives.

Bournemouth Echo: Gary Card, who was born in Bournemouth is displaying some of his work. Picture: GIANTGary Card, who was born in Bournemouth is displaying some of his work. Picture: GIANT

The perfectionist pop aesthetic of Damien Hirst’s medicine cabinets is challenged by Gavin Turk in his own cabinet, in which he replaces Hirst’s meticulous pills with the detritus of pharmaceutical packaging, making us redress utopian images of the perfect society and challenging notions of birth, death and decay.

Paul Fryer’s Telstar (Understanding), is constructed from mixed exotic woods, and references Telstar 1, which launched on top of a Thor-Delta rocket on July 10, 1962 – it successfully relayed through space the first telephonecalls, telegraph images, and transmitted the first live transatlantic television images: an American flag waving in the wind; a still image of Mount Rushmore; French singer Yves Montand, looking suave. And on July 23, 1962, President John F. Kennedy. At just under 3ft in diameter and powered by solar power, this object has had a potent and profound effect on mass communication, sowing the seeds for the connected world we inhabit today. Using this as a touchstone for the sculpture, Fryer explores notions of temporality, physics and the universe.

Bournemouth Echo: Jim Lambie's striking display specific to the space at GIANT. Picture: GIANTJim Lambie's striking display specific to the space at GIANT. Picture: GIANT

The back of the gallery houses a site-specific piece by Jim Lambie. This intervention recreates his iconic ZoBop vinyl floor, originally installed in the Scottish National Gallery. The work defines the space as a site of art and co-opts the architecture, once made for the pure aesthetic experience of shopping. It stands as a strong testament to purpose and reclamation of the high street as a site of artistic endeavour, a theme that continues in Nicky Carvell’s work, who presents the decay of the traditional town centre in a new stained-glass window installation created specifically for the show.

Project Space: Why We Shout – the Art of Protest (curated by Lee Cavaliere)

August 7 to September 11

In association with Greenpeace, the group show looks at the ways in which contemporary artists respond and contribute to protest and activism. With the right to protest being curtailed in many countries round the world, it provides an opportunity to look at its origins, outlets and impact on wider culture. Artists have often been at the forefront of protest movements, using their work as a way to broadcast, challenge and invite debate. This exhibition brings together renowned artists working in this field and asks us to look at the relevance of protest in contemporary society.

The exhibition brings together points of view from across the globe, from US artist Martha Rosler's feminist video, to Turner-Prize winner Jeremy Deller and Hong Kong activist-artist Kacey Wong. The protest community spills from Dancefloors to Demos in the photography of Bex Wade alongside examples on the ways in which Greenpeace have used art to highlight important environmental issues, alongside additional works by Banksy, Jeremy Deller, Ed Hall, Jacob Love and Liberate Tate.