Liverpool Biennial 2012 programme will fill "as many spaces as possible" with contemporary art

By Richard Moss Published: 22 May 2012

a photo of a Chinese style building wedged into an awkward angle between two warehouse buildings
Liverpool Biennial 2012 promises lots of art in unusual places by artists such as Do Ho Suh© Do Ho Suh
As Art Biennials go, Liverpool’s must be one of the most successful and certainly best established in the UK.

For ten weeks every two years, it attracts some of the most exciting artists from around the world and makes an impact on the city which, in 2010, included a healthy 600,000 visitors and a remarkable £27 million injection for the local economy.

The Biennial’s effect on the profile and continued success of Liverpool's many galleries is also considerable.

Today, Scousers can boast of living in the artiest city outside of the capital with a roll call of galleries that includes big hitters like Tate Liverpool and the established international collections of the Walker and Victoria Art Galleries, as well as a host of successful contemporary spaces including FACT, the Bluecoat and Open Eye.

At the Biennial programme launch today, Director Sally Tallant revealed a suitably adventurous programme. Bursting with site specific installations and high profile commissions, it substantiates her claim that the Biennial is “the most important contemporary arts event in the UK.”

As well as stalwarts Bloomberg New Contemporaries and the John Moore’s Painting Prize, the line-up includes a major public commission by acclaimed US artist Doug Aitken, which will be installed on Albert Dock in a temporary structure designed by David Adjaye. The opening weekend concert will feature a specially commissioned work by arty American poly-guitar orchestrator and minimalist Rhys Chatham.

Liverpool residents and Biennial visitors may have become accustomed to bizarre interventions in unlikely places (Yoko Ono’s breast billboards on the Cathedral or Alfredo Jaar’s neon lit reading room devoted to left wing theory on Renfrew Street) but this year Israeli artist Oded Hirsch will make an artwork that promises to “burst through the floor” of the Liverpool ONE shopping centre. Argentinian Jorge Macchi meanwhile will wedge a huge shipping container into a “public location”.

For the Olympic year, Tallant also revealed the Liverpool Biennial theme of hospitality, which will be explored by more than 60 artists in a multi-site exhibition called the Unexpected Guest.

The tradition of putting art into unusual venues continues apace with the city’s famous Cunard Building opening to the public for the first time and the former Postal Sorting Office, near Lime Street Station, hosting both New Contemporaries and an international group show.

“I am particularly thrilled that we have expanded the Biennial to include new organisations and venues, broadening the scope wider than ever before,” added Tallant. “Our hope is that in future we can keep on expanding, filling as many spaces as possible with fantastic contemporary art.”  

Some key highlights:

City States at the former Royal Mail Sorting Office, Copperas Street:
More than 60 artists from seven countries exploring the dynamics between cities and states

Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the former Royal Mail Sorting Office, Copperas Street: A showcase of the best contemporary work from art schools around the UK.

The John Moores Painting Prize at the Walker Art Gallery: Celebrated contemporary painting prize.

Service Provider at The Royal Standard: Artist-led studio space exhibition exploring the role of Biennials in contemporary art.

Paul Rooney at The Victoria Gallery and Museum: First Biennial outing for the venerable art gallery with an exhibition by Liverpool based artist.

Sky Arts Ignition Series, in partnership with Tate Liverpool: Multimedia artist Doug Aitken and architect David Adjaye combine to transform the Albert Dock.

Participating venues:
The Cunard Building, The Bluecoat, Everton Park, FACT, Liverpool ONE, Metal, The Monro, Open Eye Gallery, Tate Liverpool, Mitchell’s Bakery, LJMU Copperas Building (Lime Street), the Walker Art Gallery, Victoria Gallery and Museum and The Royal Standard.

  • Liverpool Biennial: September 15 – November 25 2012. See for more details.