Contemporary Art on Liverpool's Waterfront

Posted on 29 September 2016 by Liverpool Biennial

Betty Woodman, Liverpool Fountain, 2016. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes

Betty Woodman, Liverpool Fountain, 2016. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes

Why not start your Liverpool Biennial 2016 journey by exploring the exhibitions and public artworks on Liverpool’s world famous waterfront? Sufea Mohamad Noor takes us on a suggested route.

Instead of a theme, Liverpool Biennial 2016 is organised around a series of 'episodes' that bring together a wide range of artworks, sort of like a TV show. In line with this, many of the artworks can be regarded as characters that you spot in different venues and become more familiar with as you explore the Biennial. I find myself drawn to elements of both the Flashback and Monuments from the Future episodes in a lot of the artworks on display at the waterfront venues and public spaces.

Betty Woodman, Liverpool Fountain, 2016. George’s Dock Ventilation Tower Plaza. Photo Jerry Hardman-Jones

A short walk from James Street train station brings you to George's Dock Ventilation Tower Plaza. Here you will find Betty Woodman's Liverpool Fountain, a large-scale public artwork, made up of a concrete structure with delicate bronze details spread across it. Woodman's source of inspiration for this work jumps across different times, borrowing styles from Ancient Egypt to Italian Baroque and Picasso, amongst many others, to create a final display of ancient-like treasures.

Koki Tanaka's recreation of the YTS 1985 School Student Strike, 5 June 2016. Courtesy the artist

A protest is happening over the road at Open Eye Gallery. Fear not, you won’t be greeted by an angry mob, this is actually an artwork by Koki Tanaka which saw him re-stage a mass protest against the Conservative Government’s Youth Training Scheme that happened in Liverpool in 1985. History repeats itself and although this protest is staged, its content is still very relevant to the considerations that many young people face today in gaining higher education and securing real jobs.

Sir Peter Blake, Everybody Razzle Dazzle, 2015. Photo: Mark McNulty

After Open Eye Gallery, pass behind the Museum of Liverpool to make your way to Tate Liverpool. It's hard to miss but keep an eye out for the Dazzle Ferry when you're walking along the river. Inspired by the dazzle camouflage on war ships in World War I, Peter Blake designed the bright geometric patterns that parade colours across the grey river.

L-R Statuette of Tyche 1st Century AD, Archaistic Statuette of Athena 1st Century AD and Statue of Dionysos © Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek

We travel further back in time at Tate Liverpool to Ancient Greece. There are a number of contemporary artworks dotted around the exhibition space, with the main focus here being the collection of Henry Blundell's mismatched classical sculptures. There's something unnatural about these sculptures, some more obvious than others, and that's because 18th century restorers had a practice of repairing these objects for sale by using random fragments to create a complete but entirely new work.

Jason Dodge, What the living do. The Oratory. Photo: Mark McNulty

One artwork that you will definitely become familiar with is What the Living Do by Jason Dodge. It takes the form of scattered rubbish placed in various locations throughout this year’s festival venues, including Tate Liverpool at Albert Dock. The work signifies the passing of time and mob mentality through its rumoured invitation to Biennial visitors to contribute their own additions to the accumulating piles on the floor.

Krzysztof Wodiczko, Guests, 2009. FACT. Photo: Jon Barraclough

When you're ready to leave the time travel bubble on the Liverpool waterfront, head over to Paradise Street and catch the number 27 bus to Cains Brewery. Or, if you’re a little pushed for time, simply walk into town to explore the Biennial exhibition at FACT, Bloomberg New Contemporaries at Bluecoat, and the John Moores Painting Prize at the Walker Art Gallery.

Words by Sufea Mohamad Noor