Culture

Statues redressed: Artists give iconic Liverpool statues a controversial new look for summer

A Victorian ruff is added to the statue of an explorer in Liverpool

Liverpool’s most iconic statues are getting a makeover this summer, as a group of artists including Bob and Roberta Smith, Daniel Lismore, Taya Hughes and Stephen Jones give them a whole new look. The reason? They’re part of a unique arts project, which is being documented by Sky Arts: Statues redressed.

Liverpool landmarks like Liverpool Resurgent (AKA Dickie Lewis), Benjamin Disraeli, Christopher Columbus and The Beatles will all feature in the documentary.

The idea is to challenge (and celebrate) the role of statues in modern times, throwing fresh light onto what has become a roiling debate around who and what should be immortalised as a public monument.

Liverpool was chosen as it has the highest number of statues in the UK outside of London, celebrating music, sport and the royalty. It’s also home to monuments depicting people linked to slavery and Britain’s colonial past.

The artistic interventions are intended to be celebratory,  confrontational, and thought-provoking. 

The documentary will see artists challenge and celebrate the role of statues in modern times, throwing fresh light onto what has become a roiling debate…

Statue of Benjamin Disraeli dressed in bright rainbow colours
Benjamin Disraeli gets a rainbow makeover in Statues Redressed

Designer Daniel Lismore has given Victorian statesman Benjamin Disraeli a Pride themed Empress of India dress, reflecting Disraeli’s reputation as a flamboyant dresser, and spotlighting the Victorian anti-homosexuality laws that were imposed by Britain across the Empire. 

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 inspired by a different Beatles song.

Artist Bob and Roberta Smith has placed a ‘We will get through this with art’ banner underneath Jacob Epstein’s famous Liverpool Resurgent sculpture, giving it new meaning that reflects the impact of the pandemic.

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.”

Other redressings include Peter Pan in Sefton Park (George Frampton, 1928) and the Queen Victoria memorial in Derby Square (CJ Allen, 1906). 

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, 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.”

Statues Redressed will air on Sky Arts, Freeview, and streaming service NOW this October.

About Steve May

Creator of Home Cinema Choice magazine, and editor of The Luxe Review, Steve muses and reviews for Trusted Reviews, T3, Yahoo UK, Home Cinema Choice, Games Radar, Ideal Home, Louder Sounds, Channel News and Boat International. He’s also the editor of professional home cinema website Inside CI. He's on Twitter and Instagram as @SteveMay_UK

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