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Tate Liverpool on Tour

In the first initiative of its kind, masterpieces from Tate’s collection are being taken out of storage on a travelling tour to communities across the Liverpool City Region. The artworks are housed in a Mobile Museum (MuMo) attached to a cargo lorry. This innovative venture is a collaboration between Tate and a French non-profit foundation, Art Explora. It is the first time MuMo has come to the UK. 

Lorraine Bacchus went to see it in St Helens.

The Art Explora Mobile Museum in collaboration with Tate and Mumo. (Credit: Peter Byrne PA Wire)

Parked outside the Town Hall, MuMo looks impressive, an artwork in its own right; a huge, intriguing sculptural object with red wings that open to provide an outdoor seating and gallery area. Once inside, an extensive exhibition awaits visitors, with a central area also containing treasures such as a bronze sculpture in a drawer (entitled ‘Momento Mori’), by Turner Prize winner Veronica Ryan. At one end, a curtain leads to a cinema, showing artist films.

MuMo is touring a version of the exhibition, Radical Landscapes, shown at Tate Liverpool in Summer 2022, featuring works by Turner, Constable, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, John Nash and Jeremy Deller, as well as other leading contemporary artists. The idea is to continue the original impetus behind Tate Liverpool – that of making great art accessible to everyone.

Tate Liverpool’s Director, Helen Legg, says this initiative reinforces the social purpose on which the gallery was founded:

“This project will reach more than 5,000 school children in the region and continues Tate’s mission to expand the possibilities of museum spaces as sites of learning.”

Schoolchildren exploring MuMo’s collection. (Credit: Peter Byrne PA Wire)

As well as primary school children, care home residents and community groups from all backgrounds will also have the opportunity to view the exhibition and participate in art-making workshops inspired by the works.

The arrival of MuMo in St Helens is part of the town’s celebrations for Borough of Culture. On the day I visited, the all-female performance art group, Boss Morris, heightened the excitement with a show of dancing through the streets (shown below). The group’s progressive take on the ancient art of English Morris dancing was a surprise hit at the recent Brit Awards when they supported Wet Leg’s appearance.


Tate’s guide on the truck, John Hughes, is also a performance poet, a skill he brings to the tours of MuMo:

“I make it as fun as possible when I’m explaining why the artists in the exhibition are important.  A teacher helped by showing the children that one of the featured artists, Turner, appears on the back of a £20 note. That got their attention! This has been a totally positive experience for all of us as well as for the children”.

For St Helens resident, Katie Blakeman, it was Jeremy Deller’s road sign work, Built by Immigrants, that intrigued her:

“I’ve never seen such art before. The history behind it all is fantastic. It just shows nobody should be against immigrants, we need everyone, we all need each other”.

As already reported on TSOTA, Tate Liverpool is to close temporarily for a complete makeover and the dates of the closure have now been announced – from 16 October 2023, reopening in 2025. This initiative with Art Explora and MuMo is a prelude to a planned programme of arts events, which will ensure that during the closure the Gallery retains a presence in the city and a close connection to the local community.

Director, Helen Legg: “Since Tate Liverpool opened 35 years ago, the experiences our audiences want to have, and the kind of work artists want to make, have both changed significantly. So now is the time for us to reimagine the gallery for the 21st century and strengthen the connection between art and people”.

MuMo workshops, Day One (Credit: Gareth Jones)

On one of MuMo’s stops, Turner Prize short-listed artist, Ingrid Pollard, joined the visiting school children:

“It’s exciting to see it operating outside of the traditional galleries. Rather than being put in this cathedral that we come and visit, it’s out there with the kids and the people. I think you can get the sense from when you’re little that museums and galleries are scary places but this changes some of that so you get people much more curious”.

A big plus for schools facing budget difficulties is that the MuMo is totally free and because it is coming to them, there are no transport costs either.

As the Founder of Art Explora, Frédéric Jousset, says: “We wanted to go to people’s homes and knock on their doors. Despite the best efforts of museums everywhere, there remains a social divide between those who go to museums and those who do not. Art Explora is trying to bridge this divide by taking arts out to new communities and by creating encounters with art in unexpected places”.

The 10-week MuMo tour will last until 29 April 2023 and visit locations in St Helens, Knowsley, Wirral, Halton and the centre of Liverpool.