Liverpool Biennial 2014 - Highlights

Interior of the Old Blind School, Liverpool Biennial 2014 launch weekend. Photograph by Mark McNulty.

Liverpool Biennial, The UK Biennial of Contemporary Art, launched earlier this summer and continues until 26th October with free exhibitions, events and performances by leading contemporary artists across the city’s spaces, places and galleries.

The 8th Liverpool Biennial Exhibition, A Needle Walks into a Haystack, is curated by Mai Abu ElDahab and Anthony Huberman. At the heart of the exhibition is a group show presented in The Old Blind School, a neo-classical building dating from 1932. The exhibition continues the Biennial’s commitment to producing new work and this year, the commissioned artists have also been invited to show some of their previous projects, providing more extensive introductions to a selection of artistic languages and practices.

Alongside the group show, the Biennial Exhibition features four solo presentations. At FACT, the first UK solo exhibition by Sharon Lockhart (US) brings together ideas about childhood, philosophical inquiry, and the politics of the voice. The exhibition presents photographs, a sculptural installation of text works, and a new film, co-commissioned by the Biennial and FACT, that premieres in October 2014.

Sharon Lockhart, Milena, Jarosław, 2013, 2014. Photograph by Mark McNulty.

Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, the Bluecoat, displays work from 19th century painter James McNeill Whistler (US, 1834–1903). One of the most influential figures in the arts of the nineteenth-century, Whistler played an important role in paving the way for abstract painting, but was also the first to consider the exhibition space as a total environment.

Installation view of James McNeill Whistler exhibition at the Bluecoat, 2014. Photograph by Mark McNulty.

James McNeill Whistler, Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room, 1876–77. Reproduction by Olivia du Monceau, 2014 . Photograph by Roger Sinek.

In Tate Liverpool, there is a new commission by prominent architect Claude Parent (FR), who for the last forty years has been taking his profession to its most avant-garde limits. For A Needle Walks into a Haystack, he has re-designed the Wolfson Gallery, incorporating slanted floors and ramps to ensure that the audience experiences the museum anew. Works from the Tate collection are presented here to complement Parent’s on-going passion for challenging conformity.

A Needle Walks into a Haystack, Claude Parent, La colline de l’art 2014 On display at Tate Liverpool 5 July - 26 October 2014 © Tate Liverpool

Upstairs at Tate, works from the Tate collection link the institutional space of the museum to the familiar space of the home, in the manner of a domestic environment. The broad range of works selected, together with their staging, alludes to the central role of the intimate and familiar space and the way in which it has been represented by artists throughout history.

Finally, St Andrews Gardens hosts a series of screenings and conversations around the work of experimental Belgian TV director, Jef Cornelis. For A Needle Walks into a Haystack, Koen Brams (BE) has selected films by Cornelis for viewers to watch on televisions, not only introducing a UK audience to this important and recalcitrant figure, but also serving as a place for conversations about what television can be and how this medium can be used to document and represent art.

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Induction Chromatique à Double Fréquence pour l’Edmund Gardner Ship / Liverpool. Paris, 2014. Photograph by Mark McNulty.

In parallel to the Biennial Exhibition, the Biennial also presents a co-commission with Tate Liverpool and 14-18 NOW, the official cultural programme for the First World War Centenary Commemorations. Venezuelan artist, Carlos Cruz-Diez, has painted a version of a ‘Dazzle Ship’, in partnership with National Museums Liverpool. The Edmund Gardner vessel, conserved in Merseyside Maritime Museum, has been ‘dazzled’ in a dry dock adjacent to Albert Dock Liverpool.

Also featured in Liverpool Biennial 2014 are Bloomberg New Contemporaries from 20 September, the John Moores Painting Prize, a group show at Open Eye Gallery and Adrian Henri at Liverpool John Moores University’s Exhibition Research Centre.

There is a free programme of music events, talks, screenings and family workshops throughout the festival; you can see some of the autumn highlights here.

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