This week, an intimate gathering of important people came out to Tate Britain in London to witness the international launch of the 2012 Liverpool Biennial. Every two years Liverpool hosts this UK Biennial of Contemporary Art for ten weeks, which is the largest contemporary art festival in the UK and the country’s richest visual arts environment outside of London. This season, running from 15 September – 25 November, the biennial tackles the theme of ‘Hospitality’ to honour the 2012 Olympics hosted in London.
On this occasion, the biennial team was excited to introduce the new Artistic Director of Liverpool Biennial Sally Tallant, a “true breath of fresh air” as Paula Ridley, Chair of the Liverpool Biennial, describes her. Tallant elaborated on the theme of hospitality as a gesture we extend to strangers, a social code of conduct as well as a thematic catalyst for artistic investigation. She says sub-themes of host and guest will feature throughout the biennial programme, invading the public and artistic spaces of the city.
All the major cultural and participating organizations partnering with the biennial were represented – the Bluecoat, FACT, Open Eye Gallery, Tate Liverpool, Metal Liverpool, The Monro, Mitchell’s Bakery, LJMU Copperas Building (Lime Street), the Walker Art Gallery, Victoria Gallery and Museum, The Royal Standard, Liverpool ONE, Everton Park, and Anfield and Breckfield. An unexpected exhibition space included in this list was also The Cunard Building, part of the ‘Three Graces’, which will house a major exhibition curated by biennial veteran Lorenzo Fusi.
To further evoke the theme of hospitality, Fusi has brought together over 60 leading and emerging artists around the world to present The Unexpected Guest in locations throughout the city as well as in the Cunard. A book edited by Paul Domela, The Unexpected Guest: Art, writing and thinking on Hospitality, will be published by Art Books Ltd in conjunction with the exhibition.
Some staple exhibitions of the biennial will also bring together 60 artists from seven different countries in City States and the best contemporary work from art schools in the annual Bloomberg New Contemporaries, both of which will be held in the former Royal Mail Sorting Office on Copperas Street. Also held during the biennial is The John Moores Painitng Prize at the Walker Art Gallery, and an exhibition that investigates the role of Biennials in contemporary art called Series Provider on at The Royal Standard
A new initiative from Sky Arts Ignition Series in partnership with Tate Liverpool is working with American artist Doug Aitken and designer David Adjaye to commission a very exciting temporary public work to be installed on Albert Dock. More public interventions on the city will include a performance work by Rhys Chatham, a sculpture by Jorge Macchi improbably wedged in a precarious site, and Oded Hirsch to intervene in the shopping centre with a work literally bursting through its floor.