The UK Biennial of contemporary art returns this year, bringing 44 artists from five continents to the fair city of Liverpool. The ninth edition of the Liverpool Biennial takes place between July and October in venues across the city – in museums and galleries (Liverpool has more than any other city in the UK, save London), but also restaurants, supermarkets, cinemas, outdoor spaces and even functioning Arriva city buses.
Liverpool Biennial’s programme for 2016 is organised as a story that will unfold in several episodes: ‘Ancient Greece’ nods to the city’s architectural past and sees one floor of Tate Liverpool transformed into Ancient Greece, with classical Greek sculptures appearing alongside new commissions by international artists. ‘Chinatown’ reflects on the fact that Liverpool’s Chinatown is the oldest in Europe, whilst looking forward to developer plans for a New Chinatown; this episode will include work by artists exiled in Dubai, sent over in a shipping container.
‘Monuments from the Future’ invites artists to envision the city in twenty, or forty years’ time with a series of public art commissions, whereas ‘Flashback’ looks at moments when the past punctures the present through sculpture and film. The ‘Children’s Episode’ thinks about the city’s future in the shape of new generations; here, artists work with and for children, exploring the space between reality and fiction. Finally, ‘Software’ thinks about programming as a portal to other dimensions and imagined worlds.
The Biennial is accompanied by a diverse line-up of events, including live performances, screenings, tours, talks and workshops across the city. It stretches over to Manchester for the first time, working with the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art – but the heart of the festival will be the stunning Grade II listed Cains Brewery in Liverpool, a building that dates back to 1887 and once brewed over half a million barrels of beer a year. Also showing during the festival are the Liverpool Biennial Associate Artists, John Moores Painting Prize, Bloomberg New Contemporaries and the Biennial Fringe.
Here are our top 5 picks
The Biennial exhibition at Tate Liverpool is both striking and provocative, with classical sculpture interspersed with new commissions. Seeped in history, it’s worth spending time unravelling the stories behind the pieces – including a rather unexpected subtext about accidental hermaphrodites.
Bloomberg New Contemporaries at Bluecoat, 9 July 2016–16 October 2016, free entry - Visit now
Head over to the Bluecoat for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries – and cutting-edge new work from emerging artists – showing during Liverpool Biennial. This exhibition has been a reliable barometer for names to watch since 1949.
Open Eye Gallery looks something like the aftermath of a protest during the Biennial; strewn with placards, the ground floor includes screenings of an artist’s recreation of a strike by around 10,000 children in 1985.