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Football Fashion comes to Walker Art Gallery

Fashion and football collide in a new exhibition which brings the Art of the Terraces to the Walker Art Gallery this winter.

The show, opening at the William Brown Street venue this weekend, is the first major exhibition to tell the story of a movement which defined sports culture of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

It brings together paintings, graphic design, video, music, clothing and footwear to consider the culture of football ‘casuals’ which began on Britain’s football terraces in the late 70s, and to highlight how it defined an era and a generation.

And it celebrates a cultural scene that has been overlooked by the mainstream art world, but which has created its own dynamic art forms and which is now credited with the mass popularisation of sportswear as leisurewear - a worldwide phenomenon.  

Works by Turner Prize winners Mark Leckey and Mark Wallinger are among the exhibits, along with transport posters from the 1920s, paintings and etchings from the 1950s and works from contemporary artists like Leo Fitzmaurice, Pete McKee, Lucy McKenzie, Ross Muir and Dave White.

Staff and students of the Fashion: Design & Communication BA (Hons) course at Liverpool John Moores University have also collaborated on the exhibition.

The show is the brainchild of author and 80s Casuals website and brand owner Dave Hewitson, illustrator and graphic designer Peter O’Toole, designer and illustrator Jens Wagner,and designer and bran consultant Adam Gill.

Dave Hewitson, who wrote The Liverpool Boys Are Back in Town: The Birth of Terrace Culture and who is pictured in work in the exhibition, explains: This wasn’t just a group of kids following fashion and wearing the latest trends, these kids were creating their own trends and style. The clothes, the attitude and ultimately the match defined the culture.”

He adds: “Originally the idea was for a football culture exhibition. I approached Pauline (Rushton – head of decorative arts at National Museums Liverpool), who I know, six years ago and said: ‘I’ve got an idea about the 1980s and its relevance now’.

“The art has been a bit underground, but it’s getting more relevant. And artists who are now in their 40s, 50s and 60s are using their youth as inspiration.

Dave Hewitson with a 1981 photo of 'the Liverpool boys' and Pete McKee's 2007 painting of the group. He is pictured second right.

“There were at least six to eight artists that we knew would work, and we were given pretty much free rein while Pauline also came across pieces that might work in here.

“I think it looks amazing. We knew the Walker Art Gallery would go a great job of it.”

Pauline Rushton adds: “It’s been our ambition for a long time to hold an exhibition of this kind at the Walker. Terrace culture originated among football fans here in the North West in the 1970s, and it’s difficult to overemphasise quite how far-reaching its influence has become.

“We consider the highs and lows of going to the match, and the sense of identity and belonging that could be discovered and signalled to others through wearing a certain pair of trainers or branded sports top.”

The exhibition is free but visitors who enjoy it are being asked to 'pay what you think appropriate' to help support the work of the gallery.

Art of the Terraces is at the Walker Art Gallery from November 5 to March 12 2023.


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