If SevenStreets had anything as shameful as a mission statement, it would probably be along the lines of rediscovering the city you thought you knew. About celebrating the stuff that surrounds us, but that rarely gets the billing it deserves.
So we thought, what better way of kicking off our first podcast by doing just that?
If, like us, you usually only make an appointment to visit the excellent Walker Art Gallery when it stages its (equally excellent) temporary exhibitions – Bridget Riley, John Moores, The Age Of Steam and so on – you’ll probably walk through the permanent galleries thinking ‘I must devote some time to this other stuff, some day…’
So now’s the time to make like a tourist, and do just that. But don’t panic. We know there’s a lot of Big Art in there. Lots of heaving bosoms, satanic cherubs and moonlit, romantic ruins to chew over. And the frames. They’re about as subtle as Herbert’s Champagne Bar. Still, get over it. In a cultural landscape littered with the rip-off, the remake and the derivative, the Walker’s permanent collection reminds us that the original is always best. And we’re dead lucky to have it in our midst.
Of course, permanence, in William Brown Street these days, is something of an ironic concept. While the waterfront might have the Three Graces, this street is home to what could be called the Three Cultures (if it didn’t sound too much like an advert for Activia). With the recent rebranding of the museum into World Museum Liverpool, and the current closure of the library while it undergoes a similar multi-million pound refresh, the Walker, too, is about to open a major new gallery opening next month, celebrating British art from 1880-1950 . It will showcase works by Jacob Epstein, LS Lowry and Lucian Freud alongside the Merseyside artists Albert Richards and George Jardine. And no doubt you’ll eagerly march straight past the old masters and the Victorian narratives to see it…
For our first podcast, we asked the Walker’s curator of British Art, Laura MacCulloch, to unpack things a little for us. What, we asked her, what are your favourite seven pieces of art in the Walker’s permanent collection? Maybe if we start from there, the rest of the Walker’s collection start to look less like a handsome processional route to the latest must-see blockbuster, and more connected to its literary next-door neighbour. The canvasses are, after all, the best collection of stories in the city – and they’re not just about the artist and subject. They’re our story too.
MacCulloch’s choices are surprising, wide ranging and revelatory – encompassing everything from hapless characters from Les Miserables (Fantine) to works made from corrugated scrap metal (Geisha) – and they showed us just why the gallery is considered the National Gallery of the North, and why its permanent collection really is one of the city’s cultural touchstones, and something we should hurry past at our shame!
How to use our Podcast guide
You can, of course, listen to our podcast right here, right now. That’s fine. But you won’t get the full experience, with accompanying images of the art work Laura’s picked out. You’ll only get that if you download the podcast onto iTunes and, maybe, take it with you on your travels.
Our advice, download it onto your MP3 player of choice, and hotfoot it to the gallery at once – to use it as a guide around the Walker. Who knows, as you navigate around the galleries, you might just discover your new favourite artist… yes, that one: the one you’ve been walking past all those years.
Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes here
No iPod? No problem – generic feed for un-apple-types here
Or just play the SevenStreets Podcast here.
The Walker Art Gallery
Currently showing: A Collectors Eye, Cranach to Pissaro (until May 15)
William Brown Street, Liverpool
Future podcasts will feature the best of the city’s music, food, fashion, shopping and…well… we’re not sure yet. But we’ll keep exploring. If you’ve any ideas for future SevenStreets audio adventures, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org