While studying abroad in Dublin in 2004, I had 2 intense cravings in November (2 and a half months after arriving in Ireland). One was for a gingerbread latte to get into the holiday spirit, and this pre-dates the arrival of Starbucks in Ireland. The other was for SUNSHINE. I didn’t realize just how far north Dublin is until Daylight Savings meant the sun set mid-afternoon. I couldn’t take it. I needed to see the giant ball of light in the sky.
What did I do? I went on Ryanair’s website and weather.com to see where I could fly to for nearly nothing and get some sunshine. They had a promotion for flights where you just paid the tax, no additional fare, and Liverpool just happened to have some sunshine in the forecast. I took a chance, as there was nothing in particular I wanted to see there besides the sun and a Starbucks, and booked my next-to-nothing flight.
What does this have to do with ArtSmart? Well, it just turns out that Liverpool has three fantastic museums that are worth the trip to a city that isn’t exactly on people’s radars unless they’re Beatles nuts. And March’s ArtSmart is featuring art worth traveling for. Boom! Added bonus? All three museums are FREE. Which was great for me as I forgot about the exchange rate and ended up spending $20 at Starbucks. Oops.
The Tate Liverpool is an outpost of London’s famous Tate Britain. Kind of like Guggenheim’s Bilbao or the Louvre’s Lens, but in a city that’s a bit easier to reach. When I was there, the Liverpool Biennial was on and featured international contemporary art. The museum’s permanent collection highlights British as well as international modern and contemporary art. From Man Ray to Modigliani to Warhol, there are fantastic pieces showcasing Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism, black and white photography, Pop Art, and many more styles of modern and contemporary art. All housed in a dockside former warehouse. It’s a fantastic museum that isn’t super crowded or an intimidating starchitect design. All for free except for special exhibitions.
William Brown Street
While not exclusively an art museum, the antiquities, ethnological collection, and timepieces are all fabulous. I was particularly drawn to their Anglo-Saxon antiquities, the majority of which were donated from a personal collection in the 19th century. The highlight is the Kingston brooch which is the largest Anglo-Saxon brooch of its kind to be discovered. Basically, England’s version of the Tara Brooch (which is on view for free at Dublin’s National Archaeology Museum). They are a rather encyclopedic museum, so if you need a break from art, you can check out some more science-y exhibits, too.
Walker Art Gallery
William Brown Street
The Walker Art Gallery is just a block or so away from the World Museum in a similar neoclassical building. The collection has pieces from the 13th century through contemporary art, plus a decorative art section. They’ve got a Rembrandt self-portrait, loads of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and a Hockney. Really, you’ve got just about every major art movement in the last 800 years represented by stand-out pieces, not just minor artists in the same movement or pieces done by workshops. For example, the Rembrandt self portrait is one I’ve studied in class. It was reattributed to Rembrandt by the Rembrandt Project after years of being catalogued as a piece by his students/workshop.
Another piece that was fantastic to see was Poussin’s Landscape with the Ashes of Phocion. It really encapsulates the ideals of French classicism. The scene is taken from Greek mythology; Phocion was a general who died a heroic death in battle. The scene is dark to evoke the somber nature of the event. However, it’s very stoic. The landscape dominates versus the actual event taking place. Everything is calm and balanced compared to a Baroque piece that would center of the drama and emotion of the scattering of Phocion’s ashes with bold colors, movement, and an emphasis on faces and gestures.
Even though I visited three museums in a few hours, I savored the sunshine as I wandered around Liverpool. The museums weren’t the original plan, but they’re what I remember most about my day. Pop in if you see a museum while getting lost in a destination. You never know what you might find.
What is ArtSmart? A couple fellow travel bloggers with an interest in art and I decided to do a roundtable series focused on making our readers “art smart”, e.g. understanding why certain works of art are famous and worth the visit while traveling. At the end of this post are links to the other ArtSmart posts by participating bloggers. Interested in joining the Roundtable? Check out our Facebook page or email me.
This Month’s Fellow ArtSmart Roundtable Articles:
Lesley of CultureTripper: The power and the glory of San Vitale, Ravenna
Christina of Daydream Tourist: A Day in Medieval Europe at the Cloisters
Jenna of This Is My Happiness: Art Exhibitions in 2013: Art Worth Traveling For
Kelly of Travellious: Richard Serra’s Band Sculpture
*New!* Murissa of The Wanderfull Traveller: Art Worth Traveling For in Rural Italy
*Updated* Jeff of Eurotravelogue: Art Museums Worth Traveling For