When I was a student here in Liverpool, the galleries were spaces I often escaped to for peaceful and reflective solitude.
There is often this idea that galleries are for ‘certain types’ of people. While being educated in the arts, or growing up with it gives a familiarity to venturing into those spaces, it’s not a prerequisite in any way to being able to understand, not least enjoy it. In fact, when you walk into a gallery wondering what on earth the exhibit is about, even laughing at it, this can be interesting in itself.
Below are listed the galleries I often enjoy a moment alone in, or trail around in with friends (all free, of course).
The Gallery at FACT
This one is perhaps a bit tucked away, but always worth going to because I love that the space feels like a complete escape from the outside world. A couple of darkened rooms that are transformed with every turn of the gallery season. I used to go to the same exhibits again and again during my student days, picking up snippets of the artists’ stories and perspectives, but mostly enjoying sitting down on whatever seating they had (from sofas in front of projected realities, beanbags and even swivelling armchairs connected to virtual reality headsets), just taking in the 360 immersive experience
The complex has two gallery spaces, a café/bar and a cinema that shows a lot of arthouse stuff. I recommend going in the day and just soaking everything in, or going in the evening and having a bit of a culture feast.
The Gallery at FACT: 88 Wood St, Liverpool L1 4DQ. Opens at 11am, closing times vary.
The exhibit here I usually like the most is the one on the bottom floor (one of the free ones gives me a sense of enjoyment in itself). They dress up the space completely different each time- once a sound-bath experience in a darkened ‘cave’, a collection of dresses larger than life, looking like architectural structures, another, huge sheets hanging from the ceiling splashed with crazy colours (the artist’s experience living in the rainforest). I don’t always find the story of the work hugely accessible, but I enjoy just popping in (often with friends) to discuss, to laugh. It’s nice, even, just being in a big room, especially if you’re early twenties and used to being cooped up in small rental apartments.
Tate Liverpool: Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 4BB. Open 10-5:30pm (closed on Mondays).
Open Eye Gallery
This one is also a bit tucked away – it’s not far from Tate Modern, though, near the docks. The exhibits here generally are quite accessible, they show photography works that often combine themes of ecosystems- environmental protection or place. I encourage you to visit when you have energy and time to just wander and wonder to your heart’s content. I like to go around the whole exhibit and then read the explanations for its work afterwards. While I get the value of having work that stems from the artist’s deep knowledge of their craft, I like to be able to get something from it myself. It’s good to feel autonomous in one’s perspective of art, I think. Especially if you don’t like it – I encourage everyone to own that. It’s a nice space to be in regardless of what’s on. There are lots of windows too – I used to like sitting in front of handful of them hidden behind a screen – reading magazines and pretending that I, myself, was part of the exhibit.
Open Eye Gallery: 19 Mann Island, Liverpool L3 1BP. Open 11-4pm (closed Mondays and Tuesdays).
I suppose for me, that’s the importance of visiting galleries every once in a while. It’s a shame that for some it’s associated with boredom and being dragged around by your parents or friends or lovers to ‘get some culture’. Because even when you see work that isn’t great, giving time for some new information helps refresh your brain, helps you relax and even helps you to find new perspective for life outside the gallery’s walls.