Firstsite has become an increasingly popular part of East Anglia’s vibrant arts scene since opening its doors in 2011 and it was on Friday 10 May that Claudia Sanchez Ral was surprised by members of the Firstsite team and informed that she is a history-maker.
Describing the moment the milestone was reached, Firstsite Director Sally Shaw said: “It’s hard to imagine what one million people looks like, but it’s roughly the population of a city the size of Rotterdam or 23 times the number of people who ran the London marathon this year. One way or another, it’s a LOT of people. I can’t wait to meet our two millionth visitor in 2026 and see all the amazing artworks and exhibitions we will present between now and then.”
A shocked but delighted 21-year old Claudia, who lives in Colchester and is studying for a degree in Liberal Arts at the University of Essex said: “I’m very excited to be the one millionth visitor! It was all down to luck and I'm happy that so many people have come into Firstsite!"
As a special thank you for supporting the gallery and to commemorate their momentous visit, Claudia will have a painting created especially for them, depicting a person or scene of their choice. They were also presented with a Firstsite film pass for a year and a certificate to mark the occasion. A plaque will also be put up inside the gallery, commemorating Ms Sanchez Ral being Firstsite’s one millionth visitor.
The iconic Firstsite building was designed by the Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, after his proposal was chosen from more than 100 entries in a worldwide architectural competition. In the intervening eight years visitor numbers have been increasing and the last three have seen well in excess of 100,000 per annum coming to the Colchester venue to see a variety of contemporary art exhibitions, films and cultural events.
Under the leadership of Sally Shaw since 2016, Firstsite has staged a variety of popular and important exhibitions, including Grayson Perry’s The Life of Julie Cope (November 2017 – February 2018), 2017 Turner Prize-winner Lubaina Himid’s Warp and Weft (July – October 2017) and Introspective by Gee Vaucher, the celebrated album cover designer for the legendary anarcho-punk band, Crass.
Firstsite’s current shows include Cory Arcangel: BACK OFF (on now until 7 July 2019), described as a multimedia riot of colour, images, animation and sound exploring violence, aggression, surveillance and consumerism, Roy Colmer: An Optical Haze of Colour at Firstsite (open now and running through to 7 July 2019) which highlights the late artist’s unique visual language by bringing together nine paintings made between 1965 and 1971, and Magda Archer: Problems with Modern Life (until 23 June), a playful examination of contemporary consumerism, social media and British politics today.
Due to popular demand, Firstsite is delighted to announce that Gillian Wearing: Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere has been extended until 2 June 2019. The exhibition documents 1997 Turner Prize winner Wearing’s creation of the recently-unveiled statue of suffrage leader Millicent Fawcett outside the Houses of Parliament. Her notes, designs and development research that chart its making, as well as full-scale 3D prints from the mould-making process – none of which have ever been shown in public before. The exhibition also includes ephemera from Fawcett’s life and further explores the lives of other important members of the suffrage movement, who are memorialised in the frieze that wraps the plinth of Wearing’s statue.
Explaining why she was visiting Firstsite, Ms Sanchez Ral said: “I’m here to model for the University Centre Colchester Fashion and Textiles catwalk show being held at the gallery. It’s a wonderful place. I love the architecture of the building, plus there is a real variety of things going on.”
Asked what subject or theme she would commission a local artist to paint for her, Claudia said: "I'm undecided yet, but my boyfriend and I are moving into a new flat together - so it will be great to have something special to hang on the wall.”