Hew Locke’s Armada unveiled as centrepiece of new collection display at Tate Liverpool examining city’s relationship to migration

Hew Locke’s Armada unveiled as centrepiece of new collection display at Tate Liverpool examining city’s relationship to migration

by Culture Liverpool

Today, Tate Liverpool unveils Hew Locke’s Armada 2019, an immersive large-scale installation made up of a flotilla of model boats and rafts, as the centrepiece of a free collection display – Port and Migrations – examining the city’s relationship to migration and international exchange. This is the first time Armada will be shown at Tate, following its acquisition in 2019, supported by Art Fund and Tate’s International Council.

Locke’s Armada 2019 is made up of an array of cargo ships, fishing boats, caravels and galleons from different historical periods and places. Described by Locke as votive boats, Armada is based on models he’d noticed in European churches and cathedrals, offered by worshippers giving thanks for survival at sea. Suspended from the ceiling at shoulder height, each boat is made from, and embellished, with a variety of materials. Some feature nets and decorations, whilst others incorporate jewels, charms, military badges, and replica medals from the Caribbean, Syria, and elsewhere. Armada reflects on international trade and the movement of goods, as well as the movement of people and the current global refugee crisis.

Opening later this Spring, Locke will be the next artist to undertake the annual Tate Britain Commission, presenting his response to the unique architecture and context of the neo-classical Duveen Galleries at the heart of Tate Britain, in his most ambitious project to date.

Speaking about the recent acquisition, Polly Staple, Director of Collection, British Art, Tate said:

“Hew Locke’s Armada is a wonderfully layered, visually engaging work – inviting you to explore complex histories. A major acquisition for Tate in 2019, Armada underscores our commitment to resituating British art and developing new understandings of the transnational histories of British culture. A particularly apt location for Armada’s display, we are delighted that Tate Liverpool will be the first of our sites to showcase this seminal work, ahead of Hew’s Tate Britain annual commission opening later this Spring.”

Helen Legg, Director, Tate Liverpool, added:

“I’ve long admired the work of Hew Locke and I’m thrilled that we are able to make Armada a key work in Tate Liverpool’s new Port and Migrations display. I think it’s vital as a gallery that we consider the historic significance of our location in the city when choosing which artworks from the Tate collection to show. Hew’s work, and the others in this display, really reflect how the movement of people and ideas is central to Liverpool’s history and identity. By exploring works like these, and how they resonate with local and global history, we can consider the relationship between Liverpool and the world that it looks out on.”

Port and Migrations will also feature artists such as Sonia Boyce, Chen Zhen, Ellen Gallagher and Donald Rodney, whose Visceral Canker 1990 consists of wall plaques displaying two coats of arms, one symbolising Queen Elizabeth I, the other John Hawkins, the first British slave trader. The plaques are linked via a system of tubes which circulate imitation blood, symbolising the movement of enslaved peoples and reflecting upon Britain’s colonial past.

A second display, Global Encounters, explores and rethinks how international exchange has enabled the spread of ideas and knowledge, as global art movements and tendencies have been shaped by migration and the relationships between artists on different continents. The display looks at Modernist art from around the world and features works from artists such as Piet Mondrian, Naum Gabo and Shikanosuke Yagaki. The display includes works by and Kader Attia, who grew up in Paris and Algeria, Saloua Raouda Choucair from Lebanon, Brazilians Hélio Oiticica and Mira Schendel, and Li Yuan-Chia an artist from China who settled in rural Cumbria. Their art presents insights into the expansive, complex internationalism that has always been at the heart of modern art movements.

The Port and Migrations and Global Encounters will open at Tate Liverpool on 15 February.

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