The Liverpool Biennial is the largest international contemporary art festival in the United Kingdom.
For ten weeks, every two years, the city of Liverpool hosts an extensive range of artworks, projects, and a programme of events. The biennial commissions leading and emerging artists to make and present permanent and temporary public artworks, as well as long-term community-based projects. These newly commissioned and existing artworks and projects are presented in diverse locations, including unusual public spaces as well as the city’s galleries, museums, and cultural venues. Cultural organisations in Liverpool provide context for the presentation of contemporary art and culture.
Since its launch in 1999, the Liverpool Biennial has commissioned over 200 new artworks. Nine hundred artists participate in each festival and its fringe. On average, the biennial attracts over 600,000 visitors over 10 weeks.
The Liverpool Biennial was established by James Moores (with Jane Rankin Read, Lewis Biggs and Bryan Biggs) in 1998 and has presented festivals in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 (as part of Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture), 2010, and 2012. As of 2012, Sally Tallant is the Artistic Director and CEO.
The Biennial exhibition is supported by FACT (the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Tate Liverpool, the Bluecoat, and Open Eye gallery. The annual Bloomberg New Contemporaries Exhibition showcases new work by graduates from Fine Art schools in the UK. There is also The Independents Biennial, through which a programme of exhibitions is realised by independent and artist-led organisations.
Since 2006, the Liverpool Biennial has included ‘collateral' events organised and supported by embassies, international agencies, or galleries, and promoted by Liverpool Biennial as a part of the programme. In 2010, for the first time, the biennial offered a platform for exhibitions organised overseas and promoted under the title City States. Visitors to the Biennial spent £27 million total in 2010.
The Liverpool Biennial has an ongoing year-round role commissioning art for the public realm, such as Richard Wilson’s Turning the Place Over and Antony Gormley’s Another Place at Crosby Beach. The organizers also promote an ongoing educational programme.
In 2004, the festival caused controversy by exhibiting a work by Yoko Ono entitled My mummy was beautiful. This was a series of full colour photographs of a woman's breast and crotch, which were exhibited throughout the city centre. Peter Johansson's Swedish red was a one room house at the Pier Head painted bright red and playing ABBA's record Dancing Queen. The Walker Art Gallery mounted The Stuckists Punk Victorian, the first major show of the Stuckist artists, who had not previously been given official recognition.
Participating artists included Lara Almarcegui, Ursula Biemann, Yael Bartana, Luis Camnitzer, Paolo Canevari, Billy Childish, Amanda Coogan, Marysia Lewandowska & Neil Cummings, Dias & Riedweg, Maria Eichhorn, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Satch Hoyt, Huang Yong Ping, Sanja Ivekovic, Francesco Jodice, Peter Johansson, Yeondoo Jung, Werner Kaligofsky, Germaine Koh, Andreja Kuluncic, Oswaldo Macia, Jill Magid, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Esko Männikkö, Dorit Margreiter, Cildo Meireles, Takashi Murakami, Yoko Ono, Mathias Poledna, Marjetica Potrc, Raqs Media Collective, Navin Rawanchaikul, Martha Rosler, Santiago Sierra, Valeska Soares, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Yang Fudong, Oliver Bancroft, Thomas Bangsted, David Blandy, Margarita Bofiliou, Dave Carbone, Lali Chetwynd, Petros Chrisostomou, Joe Clark, James Connelly, Tessa Farmer, Oriana Fox, Sarah Gilder, Anton Goldenstein, Mauricio Guillen, Thomas Hylander, Yvonne Jones, Samson Kambalu, Ahn Kang-hyun, Karoly Kesaru, Heidi Kilpelainen, Steven Lowery, Nicky Magliulo, Gary McDonald, Sarah Michael, Thomas Needham, Robert Nichol, Jesse Richards, David Rowland, Michael Sailstorfer, Margaret Salmon, Shen Yuan, Heiko Tiemann, Douglas White, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Goang-ming Yuan.
Participating artists included Monica Bonvicini, Mark Bradford, Matthew Buckingham, Chen Chieh-Jen, Esra Ersen, Carlos Garaicoa, Simryn Gill, Shilpa Gupta, Jeppe Hein, Oscar Melgar & Jesus Javier Jaime, Toba Khedoori, Hans-Peter Kuhn, Ken Lum, Teresa Margolles, Kelly Mark, Lee Mingwei, Priscilla Monge, Mario Navarro, Lisa Oppenheim, Philippe Parreno, Anu Pennanen, Amalia Pica, Jean-François Prost, Rigo 23, Shimabuku, Julianne Swartz, The Kingpins, Kuang-Yu Tsui, Adriana Varejao, Humberto Velez, Matej Andraz Vogrincic, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Jun Yang, Yang Jiechang.
The theme and title of the Biennial’s showpiece International 08 exhibition was "Made Up".
Throughout 2008 as part of Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture, new commissions for the public realm included Winter Lights (a series of neon lights by international artists, such as Frank Scurti and Michael Pinsky, in collaboration with local communities), Visible Virals (interventionist artworks in public spaces and buildings in the city), and a series of Pavilions (creating spaces for cultural activity in local communities).
Again there was also the John Moores Painting Prize (No. 25), the New Contemporaries and The Independents.
Participating artists included Ai Weiwei, David Altmejd, Atelier Bow-Wow, Guy Ben-Ner, Manfredi Beninati, David Blandy, U-Ram Choe, Adam Cvijanovic, Nancy Davenport, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Leandro Erlich, Omer Fast, Adrian Ghenie, Rodney Graham, Tue Greenfort, Teresa Hubbard & Alexander Birchler, Alison Jackson, Jesper Just, Otto Karvonen, Yayoi Kusama, Ulf Langheinrich (Granular-Synthesis), Luisa Lambri, Gabriel Lester, Annette Messager, Tracey Moffatt, Yoko Ono, Ged Quinn, Khalil Rabah, The Royal Art Lodge, Sarah Sze, Tomas Saraceno, Richard Woods.
The 6th biennial in Liverpool ran from 18 September 2010 to 28 November 2010. It contained six programmes of contemporary art including:
- Bloomberg New Contemporaries
- City States
- John Moores Painting Prize 2010
- S.Q.U.A.T. Liverpool 2010
- The Cooperative
The visitor centre was located in the former Rapid Hardware shop on Renshaw Street.
Participating artists included Sachiko Abe, Alfredo & Isabel Aquilizan, Laura Belem, Emese Benczur, Daniel Bozhkov, Nina Canell, Danica Dakic, Song Dong, Wannes Goetschalckx, NS Harsha, Diango Hernandez, Nicholas Hlobo, Jamie Isenstein, Alfredo Jaar, Eva Kotatkova, Will Kwan, Lars Laumann, Antii Laitinen, Minouk Lim, Cristina Lucas, Tala Madani, Yves Netzhammer, Raymond Pettibon, Ranjani Shettar, Do-Ho Suh, Franz West, Hector Zamora, Tehching Hsieh, Carlos Martiel, Kris Martin, Otto Muehl, Carol Rama, Ryan Trecartin, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Aime Mpane, Oren Eliav, Tim Eitel, Edi Hila, Y.Z. Kami, Zbynek Sedlecky, Minerva Cuevas, Meschac Gaba, Clegg & Guttmann, Daniel Knorr, Lee Mingwei, Rob Pruitt, Anton Vidokle / Julieta Aranda, Tania Bruguera, Carlos Amorales.
For its 7th edition, Liverpool Biennial explored the theme of hospitality, inviting artists and thinkers to bring forth new understandings for our increasingly globalised and complex times. The biennial exhibition, The Unexpected Guest, comprised 62 international artists, and the Cunard Building was used as a venue for the first time. The programme included: Sky Arts Ignition Series, in partnership with Tate Liverpool, a public commission by acclaimed US artist, Doug Aitken, installed on Albert Dock in a temporary structure designed by David Adjaye; American composer Rhys Chatham, known for his large-scale performance works presented a concert as part of the opening weekend; one of Argentina's most established and internationally renowned artists, Jorge Macchi, presented Refraction in the LJMU Copperas Hill Building; Israeli artist, Oded Hirsch presented Lift a work which appeared to burst through the floor of Liverpool ONE - Liverpool's retail destination.
Artists who were part of The Unexpected Guest included Doug Aitken with David Adjaye, John Akomfrah, Hurvin Anderson, Janine Antoni, Keith Arnatt, Kader Attia, Yael Bartana, Sylvie Blocher, Andrea Bowers, Sophie Calle, Rhys Chatham, Libia Castro and Ólafur Ólafsson, Enrico David, Eugenio Dittborn, Elmgreen and Dragset, Peter Fischli & David Weiss , FormContent, Dora Garcia, Gilbert and George, Simryn Gill, Mona Hatoum, Fritz Haeg, Oded Hirsch, Thomas Hirschhorn, Nadia Kaabi Linke, Markus Kahre, William Kentridge, Anja Kirschner and David Panos, Jakob Kolding, Jiri Kovanda, Suzanne Lacy, Runo Lagomarsino, Jorge Macchi, Dane Mitchell, Sabelo Mlangeni, Mark Morrisroe, Patrick Murphy, Ahmet Ögüt, Field Operations, Trevor Paglen, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Martin Parr, Pedro Reyes, Rhizome, Pamela Rosenkranz, George Shaw, Pak Sheung Chuen, Mikhael Subotzky, Superflex, Sinta Tantra, Althea Thauberger, Mark Titchner, Jeanne van Heeswijk, Mark Wallinger, Jemima Wyman, Ming Wong, Kohei Yoshiyuki and Akram Zaatari
Liverpool Biennial 2012 was curated by Sally Tallant, Artistic Director; the The Unexpected Guest by: Lorenzo Fusi, Curator, Liverpool Biennial in collaboration with: Sara-Jayne Parsons, the Bluecoat Mike Stubbs and Omar Kholeif, FACT Karen Newman, Open Eye Gallery Sook-Kyung Lee, Tate Liverpool and Jenny Porter, Metal Liverpool.
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