Constellations at Tate Liverpool


On Sunday we decided to get out of the house and drive over to Liverpool to visit the Tate Gallery. It was an opportunity to take a second look at the Chagall exhibition that will be finishing in a few weeks, but we also wanted to have a look at the new Constellations exhibition on the two free floors.

For the last four years these two floors had been occupied by the “This is sculpture”. We’d visited many times and always enjoyed looking at the works on display, which were changed from time to time so there was often something new to see. But, I guess, it was becoming over familiar and time for something new.

The approach taken for this new exhibition is rather different. It’s explained on the exhibition web site

Constellations explores connections between major works from the Tate Collection across art history by arranging them in nine ‘constellations’. Presenting over one hundred works from the Collection, on two floors of the gallery, the displays offer a fresh way of viewing and understanding artworks through correspondences rather than chronological narrative.

There were a number of different “constellations”. Each has a central “trigger work”

chosen for its revolutionary effect on modern and contemporary art.

The other works being selected that have either a direct or indirect connection to it.

By each “trigger work” there was a panel displaying information about it, a diagram showing the connections to the other artists and a “graphic word cloud” of key words about the work. Key words were also displayed next to each individual work.


The constellations covered a range of different styles, and included figurative and abstract paintings, sculpture, conceptual art, video art and performance pieces- and even a couple of live parrots.

Not everything appealed to me. And some of the works were quite challenging. But that’s what galleries should do – challenge pre-conceptions and prejudices and introduce new ideas and approaches, as well as allowing visitors to see examples of works that they like. And I expect that as I revisit  the exhibition I’ll probably start to appreciate some of the works which didn’t appeal on the first encounter.

I felt that it was an interesting approach that made me think about the ways the different works were related – the similarities and the differences, too as I couldn’t always see a direct connection between some of the works.

I guess my favourite constellations were those cantered on Matisse’s The Inattentive Reader (1919) and Barbara Hepworth’s bronze casting, Single Form (Eikon) from 1937-8.

Hepworth’s sculpture was very similar to two works I’ve seen displayed at Leeds City Art Gallery and the Courtauld Gallery in London, but they were both carved in wood. This version had been cast in bronze and had a very attractive patina.



The constellation surrounded it included, not surprisingly, sculptures by Henry Moore, Jean Arp and Brancusi 


Maiastra (1911) by Constantin Brancusi

with a second, smaller, carved alabaster sculpture by Hepworth and a construction by Nuam Gabo. There were 2 D works too, by the likes of Louise Bourgeois Joan Miró and Paule Vézelay


Forms 1936, by Paule Vézelay.

There were a couple of works by Paul Nash and Max Ernst I liked that used natural materials – leaves, twigs and bark – and that were a cross between 2D collages and sculpture.

Max Ernst, ‘Dadaville’ c.1924

Dadaville (c.1924) by Max Ernst (Source: Tate website)

There was a lot to see and take in, and one visit is certainly not enough. But I’ll have plenty of opportunities to revisit over the next few years.


4 thoughts on “Constellations at Tate Liverpool

    • Thanks for your comment. Don’t know whether you ever get up here but Constellations is a “permanent” exhibition and so you’d be able to catch it if you were in Liverpool at all over the next few years.

  1. We are going to Tate Liverpool in a few weeks time as I really want to see the chagall exhibition before it finishes but I might have to pop in to see this too1

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