The gallery opened in 1988 and is housed in a converted warehouse within the Albert Dock on Liverpool's waterfront. The original conversion was done by James Stirling but the building was given a major refurbishment in 1998 to create additional gallery space.
In 2007, the foyer area was redesigned by architects Arca to create an updated appearance and better proportions, as well as to improve visitor handling. The centrepiece of the space is a new timber desk with an undulating orange fascia, which links to the retained colour scheme of the original conversion work by Stirling. A colour-changing wall acts as a backdrop to the simplified brick volume, visible from across Albert Dock. Behind the scenes, the architects also made alterations to the hospitality, cloakroom, events and education areas.
The gallery has hosted numerous live events in the foyer, including Made Up Mix as part of Liverpool's Biennial of Contemporary Art. This event featured Die Plankton performing a show which was recorded for their "Yorkshire's Answers To The Beatles" live album.