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Art on the Dock

An exhibition 30 years in the making. Tate Liverpool celebrates with special retrospective, Ken’s Show.

Tate Liverpool celebrates its 30th anniversary this year with a tribute to a man who’s been there since the very beginning. A constant in the Tate’s team over the last 30 years, Ken Simons is the gallery’s art handling manager. His new exhibition, Ken’s Show: Exploring the Unseen, has been 30 years in the making...

30 artworks from 30 years

Responsible for hanging work throughout the Tate’s galleries, Ken has seen thousands of pieces come and go since 1988. The show includes 30 artworks from the Tate collection, curated by Ken.

J.M.W. Turner's Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth exhibited 1842 being installed at Tate Liverpool © Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek © Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek - J.M.W. Turner's Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth
Ken Simons observes Graham Sutherland's Entrance to a Lane 1939 © Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek © Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek - Ken Simons observes Graham Sutherland's Entrance to a Lane 1939

"Ken’s Show is a selection of my favourite works from the Tate Collection, all exploring unseen elements of our environment and the world in which we live as a way of celebrating our 30 years here in Liverpool.

I’ve worked on around 200 exhibitions over the years, which means I’ve cared for somewhere in the region of 15,000 and 20,000 artworks. My main motivation has always been working hands on with the artworks."

Ken Simons

Sculptures and landscapes

Ken’s Show:Exploring the Unseen, is free to view, in Tate’s ground floor Wolfson Gallery. Many of the choices are Ken’s favourite artworks, showing his interest in sculptural and landscape art. And many of the artists chosen have worked directly with Ken, and their work has become central to the Tate collection.

What to look out for...

Some of the works to look out for include British surrealist Paul Nash’s Equivalents for the Megaliths from 1935; Phillip King’s towering Within sculpture,Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth 1842 by landscape painter J.M.W. Turner and Figure (Nanjizal) 1958 by Barbara Hepworth. Piet Mondrian’s The Tree A appears, and has been exhibited in each of the three decades of the Tate’s history – in 1998, 2003 and 2014.

Mark Rothko’s Light Red Over Black reappears again, and was part of one of the very first Tate Liverpool exhibitions in 1988. Ken says: ‘There are five artists that I’ve selected as core to the show. They are Graham Sutherland, Mark Rothko, Philip King, Barbara Hepworth and Turner. The inspiration came from Philip King’s Within. As the title suggests, he was looking at space within the sculpture, an empty space almost. I’ve heard some people call it negative space but I don’t like that phrase because it isn’t negative, it’s part of our world.’

J.M.W. Turner, 1775–1851 Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth exhibited 1842 - Photography © Tate 2017 © J.M.W. Turner, Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth - Photography © Tate 2017
Paul Nash, 1889–1946 Equivalents for the Megaliths 1935 - Photography © Tate 2017 © Paul Nash, Equivalents for the Megaliths - Photography © Tate 2017

"It’s an amazing opportunity to display some of my favourite works from Tate collection after so many years getting to know the works personally. It is through this hands-on interaction and curating this show that I learnt and understood much more about artists’ exploration of space."

Ken Simons

A glimpse behind the scenes

Ken has been behind the scenes at the Dock for 30 years now, watching it develop from launch to its current status as a trailblazer for arts and culture-led regeneration across the city. The iconic artworks chosen by Ken have helped make Tate Liverpool a lynchpin of Liverpool’s creative sector – and a leading light for art galleries outside the capital.

Blazing a trail...

Ken has hung every single show over the past 30 years, as Tate has established itself as the most-visited modern and contemporary gallery outside London, with 18 million visitors. He’s presided over a period of the change – both at the Albert Dock, and in the city more broadly.

"The exciting thing about working here, is that we’ve always evolved and changed. We opened with just two floors. The top floor, which is now our major exhibition space, didn’t open until ’92. One of the exciting things we did from the word go was deciding that we were going to put on major international art, and that has been really important for the Tate and for Liverpool."

Ken Simons

Photo Credits:

Portrait of Ken Simons, Tate Liverpool’s art handling manager © Roger Sinek

Ken Simons observes Graham Sutherland's Entrance to a Lane 1939
© Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek

J.M.W. Turner's Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth exhibited 1842
being installed at Tate Liverpool
© Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek

Phillip King’s Within (1978) was Ken’s inspiration for the exhibition
© Phillip King

Paul Nash's Equivalents for the Megaliths (1935) - Photography © Tate 2017

J.M.W. Turner's Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth exhibited 1842 - Photography © Tate 2017