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There’s A Lot of Art in Liverpool and King’s Dock

Liverpool | Travel Tips | United Kingdom 0 No Comments

Liverpool at sunset

A haughty Londoner might try to convince you that Liverpool is a provincial or insignificant city, but that is like New Yorkers dismissing Boston here in the US. Liverpool is second only to London in terms of museum and gallery offerings, and it is a significant cultural force not just in the northwest of England but globally, as well. One of the truest signifiers of this is that fact that the Liverpool Biennial established in 1998 attracts more than 600,000 visitors during the 10 weeks that it takes over the city in early autumn.

Liverpool Biennial

The Liverpool Biennial has commissioned over 200 new art works, which can be admired in the city’s public spaces, as well as in cultural institutions throughout the city. It also hosts the UK’s best known painting competition, the John Moores Painting Prize, which brings together an impressive group of jurors in order to honor an outstanding contemporary artist. The jurors for the 2014 event have been selected. By the way, on the off years, you can catch the London Biennale, a fun train ride away from Liverpool.

Not only is the Biennial massive, displaying the art of hundreds artists in over 50 venues across Liverpool, effectively elevating the city’s relevance in the international art scene (so that it may hope to be mentioned in the same breath as cities like Venice, Paris, and New York), but it also apparently doesn’t shy away from controversial material. For example, in its fourth edition it featured a new exhibit of Yoko Ono’s called “My Mummy Was Beautiful”. One may think that a tribute to motherhood and one’s own mother (Ono has said she conceived it as in honor of the late John Lennon, his love of his mother and of the city of Liverpool) is rather benign and universal, perhaps even mundane.

However, Yoko knows how to stir things up. Her tribute featured close shots of breasts and crotches, AND the city chose to plaster those images on flags all around downtown. Some loved it; some were outraged. You can see (and contribute to) Yoko’s continuation of her mother tribute at her interactive website, “My Mommy Is Beautiful”.

The Biennial also featured the work of Ai Wei Wei, a dissident Chinese visual artist who has caused quite a stir in his home country for criticizing the duplicity of the Chinese authorities unabashedly and repeatedly. He was even secretly detained by authorities for about three months in 2011. His art has garnered him many accolades globally, however, including a well-received exhibition at the Tate in London.

At Tate Liverpool gallery

Speaking of the Tate, the Tate in Liverpool is one of the regular venues for the Biennial and also makes for a great place to visit, regardless of when you visit Liverpool. Consistent with the other Tate venues, it is a well-organized museum with impressive, informative exhibits of well-respected artists of today and yesterday. Through October 2013 they are hosting a large exhibition of work by Chagall.

It’s also notable that the Tate Liverpool is by Albert Dock, part of the city’s large King’s Dock restoration project. One might be well-advised to choose a King’s Dock hotel when visiting, especially if you want a view of the new, modern Liverpool. There are numerous event venues and examples of interesting architecture in the area.

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