Art Let’s begin with a warning. Contrary to the information in the Biennial booklet (“all exhibition venues will be open to the public from 10AM to 6PM, daily”) and some websites, the Open Eye Gallery is (so far) keeping its usual office opening hours of 10.30am to 5.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday. It’s closed Monday as I discovered when I wandered over there after visiting the Hotel Indigo at the beginning of the week and ended up having a conversation on the doorstep which I’m embarrassed to admit included phrases from me like “but I’ve come here specially” and “Sefton Park” and “well, there’s my bus fare” and “it’s because I’m visiting them in numerical order”.
Happily, it was open today (Friday). The new Mann Island berth has a different convenience than Wood Street; whereas that was an excellent stop off during a shopping trip, here it’s become part of the Albert Dock tourism run, along with Tate Liverpool, the Museum of Liverpool, Maratime Museum and Liverpool One which means it could benefit from increased visitor numbers. In 2010, the complex hosted Hector Zamora’s artificial birds dangling from the glass ceiling outside the gallery. This year those have been replaced with coloured banners advertising Mann Island itself as a place to live, thrive and survive.
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At this new site, the Open Eye Gallery has a rolling programme of commissioning artists to decorate the façade of the building in their own style which perfectly suits Sinta Tantra who creates wildly colourful decorations and structures of giant architectural sizes. She was responsible for the pastel patterns on the bridge at Canary Wharf (a piece entitled A Beautiful Sunset Mistaken for a Dawn) which appeared on some of the contextual footage during the television coverage of the London Olympics and her website also highlights a giant fibre glass egg produced to dangle outside the Royal Festival Hall.
Tantra has covered the façade of the gallery in diagonal blocks of florescent colour in various shades, golds, blues, pinks and white. She’s attempting to create “a spectacle of submergence and superabundance” and it's certainly a visually rich intervention. I visited on a relatively cloudy day, but judging by this photo, the effect of the sun against these reflective walls is stunning. Rather like one of Christo’s wraps, it turns the building into an enticing gift waiting to be opened and also contrasts spectacularly against the dark, brooding monolithic marble of the rest of the edifice.