The Disappointed Tourist (installation at Turner Contemporary), Ellen Harvey, 2021. Photograph: Thierry Bal.

The Disappointed Tourist is an on-going project for which Ellen Harvey is making paintings of places nominated by members of the public in response to the question: “Is there some place that you would like to visit or revisit that no longer exists?”

She has painted over 300 sites so far.  Anyone can submit a site to be painted, although she does not guarantee that she will paint each site. All paintings are 24 x 18” (61 x 46 cm) and are painted in monochrome acrylic with oil glazes on wood panels and include the name of the site and the date of the site’s destructio

After its initial outing at The Suburban (Milwaukee, 2019), this project has traveled as the centerpiece of Harvey’s European retrospective to Butler Gallery (Ireland, 2023), Laznia Contemporary Arts Center (Poland, 2023), Museum der Moderne Salzburg (Austria, 2021), and Turner Contemporary (UK, 2021). A catalog for the retrospective, was produced by MdM Salzburg. 

The exhibition at Turner Contemporary was selected by Frieze as one of the five best institutional shows in the UK in 2021. 

We live in a world that often feels as though it is vanishing before our eyes. Places we love disappear. Places we have hoped to visit cease to exist. The forces of war, time, ideology, greed and natural disaster are constantly remaking places that we love but cannot control or save. The Disappointed Tourist is inspired by the urge to repair what has been broken. It makes symbolic restitution, literally remaking lost sites, at the same time that it acknowledges the inadequacy of such restitution. It is inspired both by old postcards and by the tradition of tourist painting – both the paintings produced for wealthy tourists to take home and the touring paintings that allowed pre-photographic viewers to experience far-off places. It attempts to honor the trauma underlying the nostalgia that results from our collective and individual losses, while celebrating the human attachment to places both real and aspirational. It tries to create a level playing field in which personal losses and larger cultural losses can meet and be recognized and create a new conversation about our love for our physical environment, harnessing nostalgia to create empathy rather than division. 

Ellen Harvey, 2021