Thanks to the Beatles, Liverpool is known the world over as a hugely musical city. Every year, it attracts people from all over the world to famous sights like the Cavern Club – where the Beatles were first discovered – and is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the World Capital of Pop. But Liverpool is also one of Europe’s most artistic cities and is said to house more galleries than any other city in the UK, outside London. If you’re visiting Liverpool and don’t know where to start amongst its huge array of visual art exhibits, here’s a quick guide to its main galleries.
Perhaps the most famous art space in the city is Tate Liverpool. The gallery first opened in 1988 and, together with Tate St Ives in Cornwall, was created in order to house and display work from the Tate Collection outside London. The Tate Collection is one of the most important art repositories in the UK and concentrates on work from 1500 to the present day. Until the 2000 opening of Tate Modern in London, Tate Liverpool was the biggest exhibition space devoted to modern art in the country. In 2012, highlights will include work from acclaimed contemporary artist Charline von Heyl, and the much anticipated Turner Monet Twombly event: the only chance to see this exhibition of work from JM Turner, Claude Monet and Cy Twombly in the UK.
A century before Tate Liverpool opened, the city saw the establishment of the Walker Art Gallery. Today, the Walker Art Gallery is part of National Museums Liverpool, an organisation said to hold the only English national art collection based completely outside the capital city. Admission to the Walker Art Gallery is free for all exhibitions and the attraction styles itself as the “National Gallery of the North”. Among the most praised works in its collection are its pre-Raphaelite paintings, which include important works by William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
More recently, FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) has been an important host of touring exhibitions. Opened in 2003, FACT is home to galleries that specialise in hosting moving image and new media artworks and was an important attraction during Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008. Elsewhere, Sudley House displays the art collection of George Holt – an important Victorian Merchant who lived in Liverpool – in its original setting. The Ceri Hand Art Gallery, which opened in 2008, specialises in contemporary art exhibits. And across the River Mersey in the Wirral, the Lady Lever Art Gallery has an impressive collection of 18th-century furniture and Wedgwood items.
Trains to Liverpool leave from major UK cities like London, Edinburgh, and Manchester regularly throughout the year. However, tourists and British art enthusiasts may find extra services running during the Liverpool Biennial, an international contemporary art festival that will next be held in 2012. The Liverpool Biennial was first held in 1998 and has since become one of the UK’s most interesting and innovative art festivals.