Visual Art: Forget the Labels and Enjoy Yourself ; the New Director of Tate Liverpool Plans to Turn His Gallery into a Hedonist's Heaven, Writes Mark Irving
Irving, Mark, The Independent (London, England)
He's young, a bit of a dandy and foreign, and is director of a Tate museum of modern art. So, nothing new then. But this time it's Liverpool, not London, and so, of course, the local story is very different.
Christoph Grunenberg, 38, is just a few weeks into his new job but already speaks with appropriate enthusiasm about Liverpool, how it's undergoing a cultural renaissance and how he really loves his loft-style apartment right in the centre of town, etc. The German accent - he was born in Frankfurt - is evident, but delivered with the slight self-deference of the true academic who finds personal questions slightly awkward and prefers the refuge of formal statements.
"Yes, Liverpool is going to be the European Cultural Capital in 2008 and so what we are doing here is very important for that." I wonder if this means that the city might fill up with people a bit more, since the place looked deserted when I arrived. A strange city, filled with muscular but empty buildings, shorn of confidence and made Piranesian with weeds and cackling birds; a city under a big sky with a broad river and intriguing air conditioning towers at each end of the Mersey tunnel. It is as if the architecture of Liverpool waits in expectation to be nudged into becoming sites for public art projects.
"This is something I am keen to do," says Grunenberg, who, as former Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and now Tate director, expects to play a significant role in curating the next Liverpool Biennial. He talks about the way so much "public art" - an odd term, since it implies that the public doesn't "own" the space inside state-funded galleries - is disjointed from its local context and the people who have to live with it. "It's particularly important to get it right here, since culture is playing a key role in replacing industry," says Grunenberg, who sees his museum's work, along with the renovation of the Walker Art Gallery due to be completed in 2002, as vital engines in the regeneration of the city's cultural confidence.
This said, what are his aspirations for Tate Liverpool? "Tate Liverpool's identity is defined by its geographical distance from London. Our task is to find themes and subjects not dealt with by the capital." He doesn't expand on what these might be, although he says he has always considered the exchange between "fashion, style and art" to be "most productive" and talks about a possible show of psychedelic art. However, he is careful not to deliver a view about Tate Modern's recent multi-disciplinary exhibition "Century City".
The exhibition regime at Tate Liverpool will, he says, remain broadly the same: currently budgeted at pounds 330,000 per year (a quarter of Tate Britain's exhibition budget), it consists of two annual thematic shows, each lasting six months, and one more or less permanent display lasting three to four years (the current one is about modern British art), with the recently refurbished top floor continuing to show contemporary art exhibitions (the current one is "Hybrids", an exhibition of international painting).
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Publication information: Article title: Visual Art: Forget the Labels and Enjoy Yourself ; the New Director of Tate Liverpool Plans to Turn His Gallery into a Hedonist's Heaven, Writes Mark Irving. Contributors: Irving, Mark - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 29, 2001. Page number: 4. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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