A striking sculpture that challenges the perceptions of disability in society was unveiled earlier this month outside Liverpool Parish Church, also known as St Nick’s. The installation, Gold Lamé, originally commissioned by DaDaFest, is by disabled sculptor and artist Tony Heaton and will occupy The Liverpool Plinth, an empty platform overlooking Chapel Street and the waterfront, for the next 12 months.
Gold Lamé is based on the famous Invacar – a small, blue, one-seater vehicle given to disabled people during the 1960s and 1970s. Sprayed gold and suspended vertically above the plinth, the sculpture reclaims the word lame and confronts negative stereotyping of disabled people the vehicle represented.
The changing of objects and their meaning occurs often in Heaton’s work. With Gold Lamé he transforms an object that previously marked out disabled people as ‘other’ into something more positive: “A golden invalid carriage landing from the heavens”, states the artist. Heaton has exhibited work extensively in the UK, including Tate Modern, the London Paralympic opening ceremony and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. He went on to say:
“Disabled people have always been present in society and figure often in the Bible; the curing of the lame, miracles and outsiders. The sculpture acts as a catalyst for discussion and debate on how disabled people are viewed and considered within contemporary society, including that of religion and faith.”
Liverpool BID Company is an independent, non-profit organisation, representing the interests of 1,500 businesses in Liverpool city centre, across two BID (Business Improvement District) areas – Retail & Leisure BID and Commercial District BID. Their chief executive Bill Addy said:
“The idea behind this project feeds into some of the core aims of Liverpool BID Company – in this case, to bring public art to the heart of the Commercial District BID, to attract footfall and encourage more locals and visitors to use the businesses we represent here.
“Gold Lamé certainly grabs the eye but carries an important message as well. We are sure it will be a welcome new addition to the area and enjoyed by businesses, residents and visitors over the coming year.”
Lucy Byrne, managing director of dot-art, said:
“We set out to give established and up-and-coming sculptors in the north a unique opportunity to showcase their works at one of Liverpool’s most iconic buildings. We were inundated with some fantastic submissions, but it was Tony Heaton’s Gold Lamé that really struck a chord. Dazzling, humorous, and equally meaningful, like all great art, Gold Lamé will spark conversation and put a smile on people’s faces.”
The Revd Dr Crispin Pailing, rector of Liverpool, added:
“Churches have always been a place where the visual arts have engaged people in different ways and helped them to see the world around them in new ways. I am delighted that we have been able to continue this tradition and create The Liverpool Plinth project. This sculpture will animate, provoke and engage, and is an important contribution to the commercial and waterfront area of the city.”
Gold Lamé is the first work for Commercial District that fulfils one of the pledges in the BID’s business plan to create a public art programme that will serve to enrich the experience of those visiting and working in the area. The Liverpool Plinth will host a new sculpture every 12 months. As well as the fantastic exposure and publicity given to the artist and their work, they also receive a £1,000 prize!
Gold Lamé was chosen by a selection panel with Bill Addy, Lucy Byrne, The Revd Dr Crispin Pailing, and representatives from Liverpool City Council’s public art office, the Bluecoat, and church archdiocese.
For more information about Tony Heaton’s work visit www.tonyheaton.co.uk