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Liverpool Biennial 2018 seeks a beautiful world

A large-scale sculpture inspired by Liverpool’s hidden architectural history, a new film about Liverpool’s musical heritage, and a ‘healing’ garden created in the middle of Toxteth are among the works in this year's 2018 Liverpool Biennial.

More than 40 artists from 22 countries are presenting work at this year’s contemporary art festival, which runs from July 14 to October 28, responding to the theme Beautiful world, where are you?

Works are spread across the city centre and beyond, and are being staged in the streets and squares, and civic buildings such as St George’s Hall and Central Library, as well as galleries and museums, and the Playhouse theatre.

This year marks 20 years of the Liverpool Biennial, while 2018 is its 10th edition. In that time it has worked with more than 500 artists.

And Biennial chiefs say studies show it has had a £126m economic impact.

Biennial director Sally Tallant said: “This is the Biennial's 20th birthday, and the 10th edition. It's a very important moment for us.

Mohamed Bourouissa's Resilience Garden in Granby Street

"Liverpool is an outward-looking city, a city that has grown through international conversations and dialogue with people over the generations."

Speaking about the theme Beautiful world, where are you? Tallant said at this "moment of uncertainty in the world" it is important to "find a way to think about how we can ask questions that can resonate with people".

In addition to the Biennial, there is an active Biennial Fringe, the Bloomberg New Contemporaries is taking place at Liverpool John Moores University, and the prestigious John Moores Painting Prize is being held at the Walker Art Gallery.

Here is some of what you can expect at the Biennial – and where to see it.


The Bluecoat is hosting a busy programme of work from a large number of artists during the Biennial.

They include Americans Kevin Beasley and Shannon Ebner, Suki Seokeong Kang, Silke Otto-Knapp and Melanie Smith.

Meanwhile conceptual artist Ryan Gander has devised a project called Time Moves Quickly and is working with five youngsters – Jamie Clark, Phoebe Edwards, Tianna Mehta, Maisie Williams and Joshus Yates – from Knotty Ash Primary to produce a series of artworks for the Bluecoat exhibition.

Photo: Kevin Beasley - Your Face is Not Enough


Oscar nominee Agnès Varda, a celebrated figure in New Wave cinema, is creating her first work in the UK at the age of 90, with a three-channel triptych video installation at FACT inspired by the Biennial’s theme Beautiful world, where are you?

The Wood Street venue will also host work by Mohamed Bourouissa, who currently has a major solo show at the Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris.

Open Eye Gallery

Open Eye Gallery will host work from two artists during the Biennial.

Award-winning Nigerian photojournalist George Osodi brings Nigerian Monarchs, a series of photos depicting the regional rulers in his home country.

Madiha Aijaz, who is based in Karachi, works with photographs, film and fiction to look at how entertainment and pleasure are experienced in public spaces. Her work for Liverpool is a film that explores the public libraries in Karachi against the backdrop of the changing landscape of the city.

Photo: Madiha Aijaz - These Silences are All the Words

LJMU Exhibition Research Lab

The Biennial is working with The Serving Library, founded in New York, which will organise a series of free public talks at the Exhibition Reseach Lab, part of LJMU’s John Lennon School of Art and Design from painters, architects, economists, sociologists and media theorists.

Meanwhile Paul Elliman has been gathering letter-like objects for his work, provisionally titled Found Font, for 30 years.

RIBA North

The Mann Island base for the Royal Institute of British Architects is taking part in the Biennial for the first time.

Mae-ling Lokko, an architectural historian and scientist and building technology researcher whose work centres on the upcycling of agro-waste and biopolymer materials in to building material systems, has been commissioned to develop a new large-scale installation called Hack the Roof.

Tate Liverpool

Work by artists from Aboriginal, Inuit and indigenous communities are being shown at the Albert Dock gallery which celebrates its 30th birthday this year.

Artists include Canadians Annie Pootoogook, Brian Jungen, Duane Linklater and Joyce Wieland, American Kevin Beasley, and Dale Harding, a descendant of the Bidjara, Ghungalu and Garingbal people of central Queensland who will create a new wall work inspired by rock art sites in the Australian state.

Photo: Brian Jungen Warrior 3

Victoria Gallery & Museum

Delicate and detailed models of flowers from the World Museum collection will go on show at the Victoria Gallery & Museum at Liverpool University.

Artists Francis Alÿs, Mohamed Bourouissa, Aslan Gaisumov, Joseph Grigely, Silke Otto-Knapp and Joyce Wieland will also exhibit work at the venue which stands on Brownlow Hill.

Liverpool Playhouse

Artist, musician and composer Ari Benjamin Meyers is set to produce a series of portrait films focussing on Liverpool musicians, and shot on the Playhouse stage.

The finished film, projected to its audience life size, will tell the story of the city’s musical history and industrial past.

Work by Aslan Gaisumov, Reetu Sattar, Iacopo Seri and Joyce Wieland will also be staged at the theatre.

Photo: Reetu Sattar - Harano Sur. Credit: Sayed Asif Mahmud.

St George’s Hall

The grade I listed hall is one of several of Liverpool’s public building becoming a gallery for the Biennial.

It will host work from five artists – Aslan Gaisumov, Taus Makhacheva, Naeem Mohaiemen, Istanbul-based Inci Eviner, who will create a new film titled Reenactment of Heaven, and Lamia Joreige, a visual artist and film-maker from Beirut whose work is a three channel video installation, After the River.


The Oratory (pictured above - credit Oleksander Burlaka), designed by John Foster, is part of National Museums Liverpool and houses a collection of 19th century memorial sculpture.

For the Biennial, Austrian-born film-maker Mathias Poledna will create a new 35mm film that explores modernity’s visual imagery, set against a backdrop of turbulent early 20th century European history.

Blackburne House

It’s the first time grade II listed Blackburne House has become a Biennial venue. The former girls’ school is now a home for women’s education.

London artist Rehana Zaman will create a new video, developed over the course of six months with a group of teenage girls from Blackburne House, which will examine disturbances in the social order through uprisings and disappearances.

Russian Taus Makhacheva works in different media including performance, installations and video, and will create, in collaboration with fellow artist Alexander Kutovoi, a ruin-like installation that will serve as a spa.

Public sites

Work and events will be staged at various public realm sites and buildings around Liverpool city centre and beyond.

Londoner Holly Hendry is interested in defining the architecture of spaces and her commission, based in Exchange Flags, will reflect on the hidden architectural history of Liverpool from the Old Dock to the Williamson Tunnels.

Chester-born, Internationally-acclaimed artist Ryan Gander (pictured) is working with five youngsters from Knotty Ash Primary to produce a series of five bench-like sculptures for the Metropolitan Cathedral grounds.

Mohamed Bourouissa is creating a community garden in collaboration with Granby Four Streets CLT and Kingsley Community Primary in Granby, working with gardeners, pupils, teachers, members of the community, and artists.

And Central Library will stage an event where visitors will be able to watch as a page in one of the city’s greatest artistic treasures, John Jame Audubon’s book Birds of America, is turned.

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