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A Guide to the Liverpool Biennial: What To See and Do

Liverpool’s iconic 15-week long contemporary art festival kicks off on the 14th July at galleries, museums and public spaces across the city.

Artworks and interactive events are set to pop up across Liverpool over the next few months, including some weird and wonderful sights.

From a healing garden in the centre of Toxteth to a unique pavilion structure made from mushrooms at the Pier Head, the 2018 Biennial is sure to give you something to think about!

Read our guide to this year’s highlights so you don’t miss the best of what the biennial has to offer.

What is the Liverpool Biennial?

Happening every other year, Liverpool Biennial is the UK’s largest contemporary art festival.

In previous years, the festival has brought exciting artwork to Merseyside including the Razzle Dazzle Ferry, and Anthony Gormley’s Another Place sculptures at Crosby Beach.

It’s a nationally acclaimed festival, with fashion magazine Vogue picking it as one of their “cultural happenings not to miss this summer” earlier this month!

liverpool bienniel

The theme for the art festival in 2018 is ‘Beautiful world, where are you?’ which, according to organisers, invites artists to reflect on a world of social, political and economic turmoil.

Over 40 artists from 22 countries will be showcasing their work until 28th October at diverse venues across the city including FACT, Open Eye Gallery, the playhouse theatre and St George’s Hall.

Highlights You Have To See

With artworks spread across 15 sites and 11 buildings, there’s no shortage of things to see at the 2018 Biennial!

Look out for outdoor artworks at Exchange Flags, the Metropolitan Cathedral, in Liverpool One and around St James Gardens.

liverpool biennial
A previous artwork by Holly Hendry, called Homeostasis (2014) | source: holly hendry’s website (

A large-scale public sculpture has been commissioned for Exchange Flags from London-based artist Holly Hendry. Set to reflect the architectural history of Liverpool, the installation will aim to reference the many hidden parts and tunnels in the city’s infrastructure, such as the Williamson tunnels and the old port buried under Liverpool ONE.

The sculpture has already begun to be built behind the Town Hall, with huge pipes laid out ready to be used in the artwork.

liverpool biennial
Dr Mae-Ling Jovenes Lokko  | source: liverpool biennial twitter (@biennial)

There’s also going to be a big pavilion set up at RIBA North on the waterfront, which will explore how we can recycle agricultural waste. The structure, by Dr Mae-ling Jovenes Lokko, will be made from waste-fed mushrooms and installed by students, school children and community groups from Liverpool.

When it’s finished, visitors can walk in and around the structure and check out the accompanying exhibition at RIBA North.

Keep your eyes peeled for Banu Cennetoğlu’s sobering ‘The List’ installations, as well.  Using public spaces such as billboards, bus stops and newspapers, Cennetoğlu will be publishing information relating to the deaths of more than 33,000 refugees and migrants who have lost their lives within, or on the borders of Europe since 1993.

liverpool biennial
Part of The List, which Banu Cennetoğlu has used for her installation at the Biennial | source: liverpool biennial twitter (@biennial)

In autumn, head down to Mermaid Court next to the Tate Liverpool to see the 10-metre tall Liverpool Mountain by internationally acclaimed artist Ugo Rondinone that’s just been commissioned.

liverpool biennial
Seven Magic Mountains, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2016 by Ugo Rondinone | Source: Twitter (@biennial)

A joint project between the Tate and Liverpool Biennial, the sculpture is likely to be an Instagram magnet with its expected technicolour towers.

Rondinone’s previous public artworks in Miami and Las Vegas have been viral sensations.

Over in FACT, on Wood Street, you can catch a three-part video installation from French New Wave Cinema legend Agnès Varda. This will be her debut UK piece of artwork and as the renowned  Grandmother of French Cinema, it’s an unmissable part of this year’s biennial.


The Best Thing to Take the Kids To

liverpool biennial
Ryan Gander working with Knotty Ash pupils | source: the bluecoat (

Head to the Bluecoat, and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral to inspire the family with some kid-created art.  Ryan Gander has collaborated with ­children from Knotty Ash Primary School to make a number of  benches for the cathedral grounds as well as producing artworks that will be displayed at the Bluecoat.

The Best Interactive Installation

Liverpool Biennial
The Healing Garden, in Toxteth | source: liverpool biennial website (

You can get stuck into some decidedly dirty art by heading over to Toxteth.

Artist Mohamed Bourouissa has created a healing garden inspired by the therapeutic powers of gardening, in collaboration with Granby Four Streets.  It’s meant to mimic a similar space the artist encountered in Algeria.

Head to the garden, which is next to the Adult Learning Centre, on Saturday afternoons to learn about planting and growing from the Biennial’s resident gardener, Andrea Ku. It’s open June 16th/ 23th / 30th and July 7th / 14th from 2-5pm.

Revisit Classic Liverpool Institutions and Their Collections

The ‘Worlds within Worlds’ series at the Biennial invites audiences to explore the history of Liverpool by discovering (and re-discovering) artifacts from the city’s historical collections.

liverpool biennial
The Milton Tile Floor, St George’s Hall | source:

For only ten days in August, visitors to St George’s Hall will get the chance to see the beautiful Minton Tile Floor in the Grand Hall of the iconic Liverpool building.

Made up of more than 30,000 individual tiles, the incredible mosaic was covered up in the 1860s to prevent damage to the floor. You can have a look between August 3rd and 12th, from 10am to 5pm.

Over at Liverpool Central Library, there’s an opportunity to have a look at a rare 19th century book, John James Audubon’s Birds of America, which is one of just 120 copies in existence. Full of exquisite paintings of beautiful birds, it’s a must-see.

liverpool biennial
Liverpool Town Hal l source: wiki commons, miguel mendez

Head to Liverpool Town Hall to see an exclusive collection of silver gifts that the city has received over the years.

The display is open from August 13th to 24th, between 10am and 5pm everyday.

Highlights include a Mace that once belonged to Charles II, and George III tankards.

Talks That You Can’t Miss

A host of interesting talks are happening over the 15-week period and they are all free (although you will need to book online).

For a futuristic take on building cities of the future, check out Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials and Society at UCL, discussing whether new materials and technologies might lead to self-repairing cities at the Exhibition Research Lab Liverpool John Moores University on 13th September.

At the same venue, you can catch Ryan Avent, a Senior Editor at The Economist, talking about if we’ll ever be able to view AI and robots with a sense of wonder once more. That’s happening on the 11th October from 6:30pm.

A full list of all talks can be found on the website

And Make Sure You Check Out These Golden Oldies from Biennials Past…

If you’ve made it through the 15-weeks and still want to see more art, why not check out some of the best art installations from Biennials gone by? Some of the best public artworks are still around in Liverpool!

liverpool biennial
source: Culture Liverpool 2018 website (

Head to the docks to see Sir Peter Blake’s Razzle Dazzle commission – a fully functioning Ferry covered in brightly coloured  geometric patterns.

You can also spot a second ‘Dazzle Ship’ around the waterfront. Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Edmund Gardner ship (2014) is situated in a dry dock adjacent to the Albert Docks,

Just around the corner from the Pier Head Ferry Terminal is another permanent artwork from 2016. Betty Woodman’s brightly covered Liverpool Fountain is next to George’s Dock Ventilation Tower.

liverpool biennial
Gormley’s Another Place source: chris howells / wiki commons

Head to Crosby Beach to see the famous Anthony Gormley installation that spreads over 2 miles of seaside between Waterloo and Blundellsands.

Modelled on the artist’s own body, the cast iron figures are revealed and submerged daily by the egg and flow of the tides.


Want to see more incredible art in Liverpool? Make sure you check out our guide to the best places to spot the city’s spectacular street art.

Liverpool has so much to offer alongside it’s art scene and our 2018 bucket list for things to do is a great starting point to explore the city.

If you’re feeling thirsty after all this art, head for some of the best gin bars or real ale pubs in the city.

About Laura Bowery

Laura is a creative writer who has an interest in all types of artistic expression, be it food, music, fashion or art and she enjoys sharing those interests through her writing

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