Liverpool is a city steeped in history, culture and art. Without stating the obvious, the importance of this famed English port has been well documented since it spawned a wealth of talent in the 1960’s, whose influences are still being absorbed today. I’m not just talking about the musicians. Writers, poets and artists alike, have all played a key role in enriching Liverpool’s reputation and status as one of the most vibrant cities in the U.K.
Last Wednesday I took a train from the Wirral to Lime Street and spent the day visiting a few of Liverpool’s galleries, soaking up the atmosphere and checking out what was on offer for free in terms of spectacle and wonder. My first stop was the Tate gallery located on the Albert Docks.
The first exhibition I saw is by New York Photographer and Film-maker Moyra Davey. Pictured above is a collage from her ‘Copperhead series’ which involves a number of prints of different American pennies (featuring the head of Abraham Lincoln) which Davey has posted without an envelope, to various locations around the globe. Each individual print is stamped and marked giving unique insights into every prints journey. Accompanying this piece is also a collection of actual pennies that are presented with a series of quotes that the artist has collected over time. Each quote is thought provoking and often hilarious to read. There is also a collection of photographs that Davey has taken in Liverpool and nearby Manchester which make up the exhibition; ‘Hangmen of England’.
Asides Moyra Davey’s brilliant exhibition the Tate is currently exhibiting the works of Marc Chagal. However you must pay to see this particular exhibition and I would much rather show you what’s on offer for free. There is still plenty of other fantastic and innovative pieces on display in the Tate’s various floors. Here are some of the works I encountered.
There are a few great examples of modern masterpieces by painter’s such as Matisse (above) and Bonnard (below)
One of the larger and more arresting paintings is Albert Gleizes Portrait of Jaques Nayral which is positioned centrally on the back wall and commands your attention immediately upon entering the first floor gallery.
Another show-piece for the gallery is an original Jackson Pollock which is over 18ft across. Entitled Summertime No. 9A, the American classic dances with life and spontaneity.
This really is something to behold. It is easy to inspect quite closely and the gallery allows photography providing a flash is not used.
There are other artworks in different mediums that give the Tate it’s own alternative and modern reputation. I particularly enjoyed this 5 man Pedersen by Turner Prize winner Simon Starling.
The space in each floor is used very well and the experience in the Tate is unique. There’s an atmosphere of spontaneity. One doesn’t know what to expect around each mysterious corner and alcove. There are various films being played that you can sit in on and engross yourself in. Many of the works are varying in their style although they all share a certain boldness and personality.
I particularly enjoyed this Self Portrait (below) by Dieter Roth which is festooned with objects and contains unusual ingredients such as chocolate and butter! It has a quality of it’s own that comes alive and reaches out at you, grabbing your attention and speaking directly to the subconscious. Certainly a painting to go and stand in front of as the photograph does not capture its presence in the room.
Equal to Roth’s table-selfie is Picasso’s ‘Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle’ (1914)
The Tate Liverpool has a lot to offer. Considering it is free to enter (there is a donation box asking you to pledge £4 – which is worth it if you’re flush) I cannot complain that I didn’t go to see the Chagal Exhibition, which is ticketed for the sum of £10. However, for those on a tight budget in these most austere of times, there is still plenty to see in Liverpool for free.
Since the development of L1, the connecting of the pier head to the Albert dock and multiple museums and galleries having sprung up en route along the banks of the Mersey, Liverpool is now shining in creative energy and artistic culture. You can visit The Museum of Liverpool as well as the Open Eye gallery amongst many others. There is also the World Museum not far from Lime Street that is adjacent to the city’s famed Walker Gallery. Both are free to enter. Having spent at least an hour and a half (which was quick) in the Tate, I needed lunch and at least two mugs of tea. After which I spent a happy half an hour wondering around the World Museum until it closed at 5pm. The memories of visiting the place as a child were not rekindled as the layout has completely changed. It is however, still fascinating and well worth a visit.
The museum and most of the galleries close at 5pm, there is however the Bluecoat gallery situated on School Lane, which stays open until 6pm. The memories from my childhood came flooding back here. Liverpool’s Bluecoat is a building with a history. It’s walls are steeped in a rich tradition of charity and support for the arts. As is the character of the city, the Bluecoat is warm, friendly and has hidden treasures that are discovered upon closer inspection.
I was impressed with the use of the space in the Bluecoat and very much enjoyed the exhibition currently showing by artist Hannah Wooll.
The Bluecoat is a very vibrant and happening place and has endured and embraced the recent changes in the city, surviving and thriving as a hub of creativity and artistic pursuits, whilst maintaining it’s heritage and original character.
So overall, Liverpool has a great deal on offer to those looking for inspiration, modern masterpieces, diversity or just a good day out that won’t cost a fortune. There are many great places to eat. I had lunch at The Egg Cafe just off Bold Street (excellent service and top quality food at a very reasonable price).
The scouse tradition of friendliness and humour is still thriving in this great city and I advise anybody who is interested in art and culture to visit both of the galleries I have written about here. Art is brought to the masses by places like the Tate and the Bluecoat. They support local artists and also provide a place for people to get in from the rain and be warmed by the hearth of creativity. As they say in city, if you’re in Liverpool, you’ll never walk alone.
Words and photographs by Greg Fisher for Perygl Productions.