For this very special 10th edition of the ever-popular Liverpool Biennial, the international contemporary art festival presents a city-wide exhibition titled Beautiful world, where are you? (14 July-28 October). The provocative question derives from an ode to the lost glory of ancient Greece written by Friedrich Schiller in 1788; and set to music by Austrian composer Franz Schubert in 1819 with a composition that reflects the extreme turmoil of the preceding 100 years, bookended by the French Revolution and fall of the Napoleonic Empire. Yet it takes little to note how strongly the title continues to resonate in our current climate of widespread geopolitical, social, economic and environmental unrest – themes which thread throughout the Biennial’s 2018 offering of exciting new commissions and existing works drawn together from around the world.
This year’s artist line-up features several major names, including the widely revered grandmother of French New Wave cinema, Agnès Varda, and the ever-poetic Francis Alÿs, alongside a number of newer art world pioneers, such as Taus Makhacheva whose work met with widespread acclaim at the 2017 Venice Biennale. As in 2016, the festival is also a chance to experience Liverpool in a whole new light – encountering work in unusual places (like the former prison cells and courtroom of St George’s Hall) or engaging with its civic collection re-envisaged by guest curator Kitty Scott. Once again, there’s a strong emphasis on public art too – don’t miss Holly Hendry’s ambitious takeover of Exchange Flags in response to the city’s legendary Williamson Tunnels, or Ryan Gander’s creative collaboration with local school children in response to the city’s much-loved ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’ (Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral).
Essentially: If there’s one thing you do this summer, we strongly recommend you hop on a train and make your way over to Liverpool. (And if you’re planning to cover it in just two days, wear comfortable shoes and check out our weekend guide here.)