Who we are
Bluecoat is Liverpool's centre for the contemporary arts and the UK's first arts centre. It has a century long history of showing some of the best art from the North West of England, the UK and across the world. Occupying the oldest building in Liverpool's UNESCO World Heritage Site and Grade One listed, Bluecoat received over 685,000 visitors in 2016/17 making it one of the region's most popular visitor destinations.
This year we celebrate the 300th anniversary of our building, and the finale will be an ambitious exhibition entitled In the Peaceful Dome, occupying all our gallery spaces. Opening on 13 October, it will include a wide range of work - paintings, sculpture, films, photography, printmaking, installations, ceramics - together with archival material. Historical works shown alongside new commissions by contemporary artists will create a dialogue across time, exploring ideas that continue to resonate after 300 years.
A centrepiece of the exhibition, loaned by The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, will be Jacob Epstein's iconic sculpture from 1930, Genesis.
A dramatic marble sculpture of a heavily pregnant woman, Genesis attracted considerable controversy when first exhibited in 1930, and it has an important place in Bluecoat's history. 86 years ago, the Bluecoat Society of the Arts, as custodians of the building, struggled to finance the building's upkeep. Members of the Sandon Studios Society, based in the building at the time, suggested loaning Epstein's sculpture as a means of generating much needed income, as well as bringing back a key work in British modernism to a Liverpool audience.
Genesis was exhibited at Bluecoat in 1931. Chronicler of Bluecoat's arts history, the artist Roderick Bisson wrote: "With black velvet hangings behind, a rail in front and concealed lighting, it made a sensation. During the month 49,687 people paid sixpence each to gaze at her, some, the newspapers reported, to froth at the mouth, others to be baffled and some, it was said, with reverence. Sermons were preached all over the city on the theme. There was excited correspondence in the press, one writer protesting that the fund should go to the Maternity Hospital." The exhibition generated over £1,000, a considerable sum in the 1930s.
Listen to the sculptor Herbert Tyson Smith, who had a studio at Bluecoat for almost 50 years and organised the transport of Genesis from Manchester, talk in a 1965 interview about how fellow artists planned to create further uproar and interest by covering Genesis in beer bottle labels!
How will donations be spent?
Funds from this campaign will be used to help transport Genesis from The Whitworth in Manchester to Bluecoat in Liverpool. You will be helping bring back a key piece of Bluecoat's history to our gallery and to the city.
We were delighted to recently receive a local newspaper photograph from the grandson of Norman Hopgood, who worked in Tyson Smith's sculpture studio and was one of the people (second right - chap in the argyle socks) involved in getting Genesis to Bluecoat in 1931. Then, the building entrance was not ramped, so a makeshift one was created from wooden planks and the sculpture wheeled in on a trolley.
In contrast, today the sculpture requires highly-specialist transport to move it safely and securely, which comes at a premium cost, and there are other costs needed in order to make In the Peaceful Dome a truly special exhibition experience in this, Bluecoat's significant anniversary year.
Will you contribute to this exhibition and ensure we continue our long tradition of showcasing great art?
Why your support matters
Bluecoat is a charity that relies on fundraising, so by contributing to In the Peaceful Dome you will be directly helping Genesis revisit the journey it made 86 years ago. The good news is that as recipients of an Arts Council England match funding scheme, any amount you give will be matched pound for pound, meaning your generosity will go even further.
Bluecoat focuses on reaching people who are least likely to visit arts and cultural venues, so our exhibitions are free to enter and accompanied by fully-accessible events programmes. During In the Peaceful Dome we are hosting talks, workshops, free Saturday Explore sessions in the galleries for children and a family weekend.
Your support will ensure that, regardless of social background, many people will be able to experience and enjoy the arts by coming to what promises to be a highly stimulating and relevant exhibition.
And as a thank you...
We're always incredibly grateful for any support. As a thank you for a fixed donation we have a range of gifts on offer including an A4 print based on our Blue Room artists' exploration of Genesis (we'll be sharing their short animations over the campaign) made in our very own Print Studio, or a private tour of the exhibition with our Artistic Director, Bryan Biggs.
And if you can't donate, sharing this page with your friends, family and colleagues could make a huge difference.
Be a vital part of our story, as Genesis is, and help celebrate our 300th birthday year exhibition.