The Liverpool Biennial: One week left!
If you have just started your first year in Liverpool, or have recently returned after the summer break, you may well not be aware that the UK’s biggest festival of contemporary art has been taking place throughout the city since the beginning of July. Currently in its ninth incarnation, having run every two years (bar one) since 1999, the Liverpool Biennial is one of the biggest events on Europe’s art calendar. Previously showcasing works by world renowned artists such as Anthony Gormley, Sir Peter Blake and Yoko Ono, the Biennial chooses a new theme each year; ensuring that Liverpool’s status as a diverse city of culture is continually reaffirmed. That’s not to mention the economic impact of £119.6 million, which it has earned during the last ten years. This year’s theme focuses around six ‘episodes’ relating to Liverpool’s past, present and future: Ancient Greece, Chinatown, Children’s Episode, Software, Monuments from the future, and Flashback. Despite this international recognition it is easy to be put off by the sheer scale of the festival, or to simply miss it altogether, with the hectic schedule of freshers. So with just one week left until the festival disappears for another two years, I have compiled my top three must see exhibitions to see before it ends.
Tate Liverpool – Ancient Greece
One of the strongest partnerships the Biennial has in this city is with the Tate Liverpool – and this year it’s no different. The Tate has given up one it’s first floor galleries to Ancient Greece, as visitors are greeted with a space full of classical sculptures, busts and vases. While at first these sculptures seem to fit our idea of classical Greek sculpture, on closer inspection they reveal themselves to be Frankenstein’s monsters of large limbs attached to small bodies and female heads fixed to male torsos caused by shoddy restoration efforts in the 1800’s. What brings this exhibition into context is the inclusion of several new works by contemporary artists which relate to, as well as attempt to understand, the classical artefacts. Although the space is busy and quite confusing, the exhibition shows the clear merging of past, present and future which is so apparent in Liverpool through it’s mix of neoclassical architecture, cultural heritage and current changes. This is definitely worth a walk down to the docks to see and is great a chance to, not only view some of the cutting edge contemporary works that the Tate is renowned for, but also to see some sculptures from antiquity in a truly unique setting.
The Bluecoat – Software
Next on the list is the oldest building in Liverpool’s city centre: The Bluecoat Gallery. Home to the software episode, a small space within the gallery lays home to Dennis McNulty’s piece Homo Gestalt. The rest of his work consists of regular live performances and a digital app. The resulting artworks appear more like feats of engineering, rather than art, but nevertheless reflect the importance of software and its ability to create shapes and structures humans could never attempt to make by themselves. While not strictly a part of the Biennial but instead associated with it, the Bluecoat is also currently hosting the Bloomberg New Contemporaries: a collection of works from 46 emerging young artists chosen because they represent the future trends in the art world. This exhibition really has something for everyone – from thought provoking paintings and video art relating to topics of politics, war and turmoil to bizarre and often humorous sculptures commenting on consumerism and popular culture. This is definitely worth a visit before the exhibition closes as you may get to see works by the next generation of world famous artists – for free.
ABC Cinema – Children’s Episode and Chinatown
My third pick – and, might I add, personal favourite – is the former ABC Cinema on Lime Street which, although not a gallery in the traditional sense, has been transformed into an eerie and unusual home for the duration of the Biennial. After entering the unassuming entrance, we are greeted with a huge, dimly lit space filled with numerous projected films documenting events from Liverpool’s recent history: including the last film shown in the cinema and footage of the Iron Men on Crosby beach. When the films finish the lights are switched on revealing numerous sculptures relating to the Chinatown episode, dotted throughout the cinema. Even if art isn’t really your cup of tea this venue is certainly worth a visit on your way into town just to see the building itself. This is likely to be the last chance to see inside this Grade II listed art deco cinema before work begins to transform it into a 1500 capacity music venue.
And if you’ve got time to fit more in other highlights include: Open Eye Gallery, FACT, Cains Brewery and The Oratory – as well as numerous public artworks dotted throughout the city centre!
Information about all the locations, artworks and artists, along with info on events and how to get involved, can be found on the Biennial website: http://www.biennial.com/