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Arts project will ‘challenge and celebrate’ Liverpool’s famous statues

(David Edwards/Sky)
(David Edwards/Sky)

Some of Liverpool’s most famous statues – including artworks fashioned in the image of Benjamin Disraeli and The Beatles – will be creatively reimagined this summer as part of a project by Sky Arts.

A collection of artists have been commissioned to create art around or dress up statues across the city, in a bid to “challenge and celebrate the role of these statues in modern times”.

Liverpool has the highest number of statues in the UK outside of London, including of cultural, sporting and royal figures, plus monuments depicting people linked to slavery and Britain’s colonial past.

Jacob Epstein’s Liverpool Resurgent (David Edwards/Sky)

A documentary special exploring the project, called Statues Redressed, will arrive on Sky Arts and streaming service NOW in October.

The “interventions” will range from the celebratory to confrontational, and each will be gradually revealed to the public.

Bob and Roberta Smith – the pseudonym of artist Patrick Brill – has placed a “We will get through this with art” banner underneath Jacob Epstein’s Liverpool Resurgent sculpture, reframing its original post-war message of hope.

Designer Daniel Lismore dresses the statue of Victorian statesman and prime minister Benjamin Disraeli in a Pride-themed Empress of India dress – a commentary on Disraeli’s flamboyant and romantic nature and the anti-homosexuality laws of the time.

 Benjamin Disraeli (David Edwards/Sky)

Meanwhile, Taya Hughes has dressed statues of Christopher Columbus, Captain Cook and Henry The Navigator in elaborate Elizabethan-style ruffs made from fabrics associated with indigenous populations in Africa, New Zealand and Australia, playing on claims they “discovered” parts of the world.

The Beatles statue outside the Museum of Liverpool will see the Fab Four wearing hats inspired by different songs from their back catalogue, made by designer Stephen Jones.

Bob and Roberta Smith said: “I’ve always loved Epstein’s work, and particularly this piece, which represents the city’s revival after being so badly bombed in the Blitz.

“My banner for Statues Redressed will build on Epstein’s message of renewal and positivity, and I hope will encourage everyone in Liverpool to feel good about the future, and to reconsider and celebrate this brilliant work of art.

Daniel Lismore (David Edwards/Sky)

“Public art – statues, monuments and sculptures – is complex and contested. What we’re aiming to do with Statues Redressed in Liverpool is to create a new, engaging conversation about all this.

“Statues Redressed is in Liverpool, but the same questions apply to public art all over the UK.”

Liverpool City Council’s cabinet member for culture and visitor economy, Harry Doyle, said: “Liverpool is a city renowned for pushing cultural boundaries and for using art and creativity as a way to engage and tackle challenging topics.

“As the global conversation about the role and future of statues and monuments gets more intense, the chance to work with Sky Arts on this unique project feels like perfect timing and the right thing for us to do as a city.

Taya Hughes with Christopher Columbus (David Edwards/Sky)

“Although the artists will only create temporary makeovers to some of our most recognisable statues, we hope that it will kickstart a conversation with residents and visitors alike about the original works, what they mean to society today and the nuance and complexity when history and art come together in this way.”

Phil Edgar-Jones, director of Sky Arts, said: “Statues have often been a source of discussion and controversy and we all know how live and urgent the questions are around what statues are for, who or what they should represent and who deserves to be memorialised.

“This collaboration between Sky Arts, Liverpool Council and a cohort of brilliant artists will tackle some of those questions head-on in an entertaining and thoughtful way, with a healthy dose of wit and humour threaded throughout.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the results and engaging the people of Liverpool in the conversation.”

More details can be found online.

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