City’s statues get a temporary makeover in unique arts project
Some of Liverpool’s most iconic statues are getting a whole new look this summer as part of a unique Sky Arts project.
The documentary special, Statues Redressed, coming to Sky Arts and streaming service NOW in October, will see the artists challenge and celebrate the role of these statues in modern times, as part of the ongoing debate around who and what should be immortalised as public monuments.
Chosen because of its rich history, Liverpool has the highest number of statues in the UK outside of London, including cultural icons like The Beatles through to sporting heroes, royalty, and monuments depicting people linked to slavery and Britain’s colonial past.
Some of the artists’ interventions range from the celebratory to the confrontational, and all will be thought-provoking. As each statue is gradually revealed to the public, spectators will be prompted to look again, think again, and question how we feel about the public art that surrounds us. The artists involved in the project include major artists and heavyweights in the public art scene, as well as rising stars, local artists and designers. The reimagined statues include:
Artist Bob and Roberta Smith has boldly placed a ‘We will get through this with art’ banner underneath Jacob Epstein’s famous Liverpool Resurgent sculpture, reinforcing the statue’s original post war message of hope and giving it new meaning following the impact of the pandemic
Designer Daniel Lismore gives the statue of Victorian statesman Benjamin Disraeli a whole new look with a Pride themed Empress of India dress. The redressing is a commentary on Disraeli’s reputation as a flamboyant dresser and a dandy who wrote love letters to men, and on the fact that Victorian anti-homosexuality laws were imposed by Britain across the Empire. In many ex-colonial countries today, those laws still apply.
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 as a commentary on these explorers, who claimed to ‘discover’ these parts of the world.
Designer Stephen Jones will soon be giving The Beatles statue outside the Museum of Liverpool a new look creating four spectacular hats, each inspired by a different Beatles song to celebrate the iconic band.
Bob & Roberta Smith, who have ‘redressed’ Epstein’s ‘Liverpool Resurgent’ 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.
“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.”
The project takes on many of the city’s most iconic statues, from Peter Pan in Sefton Park (George Frampton, 1928) to the imposing Queen Victoria memorial in Derby Square (CJ Allen, 1906). Full details of all ‘redressings’ can be found at: www.statuesredressed.com
Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Visitor Economy, Councillor 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.
“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.
Statues Redressed will air on Sky Arts, Freeview Channel 11, and streaming service NOW this October.