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Quick trip to Liverpool: City of Art, hometown of The Beatles

Paul McCartney's childhood home  in Liverpool

The Art Detective’s Muse outside Paul McCartney’s childhood home in Liverpool

Grey skies, rain, cathedrals, craic, culture and really friendly people. Dublin? Nope, Liverpool.

It was the accent that gave it away. I got off the train at Lime Street Station on Thursday afternoon and hopped in a cab to Hope Street Hotel. I’d come for the Preview launch and VIP Evening of the Liverpool Contemporary Arts Fair 2014 which was taking place that evening at the National World Museum. What to expect I had no idea so I bought a new dress and packed my Jimmy Choos. As it turned out, it was a much more relaxed event than I’d imagined – I think I was getting it confused with the Liverpool Biennial 2014 which is a completely different thing and why sometimes I wish I had an assistant.

Louise Minchin

BBC News Presenter Louise Minchin opening Liverpool Contemporary Arts Fair Thursday 3 July 2014

Still, it was a great evening with art and friends so I’m not complaining in the slightest. The event was officially opened by Breakfast on BBC One presenter Louise Minchin. There was a collection of drawings for sale by Nelson Mandela presented by the London based Belgravia Gallery and Christian Furr (the youngest artist to have ever officially painted the Queen’s portrait) auctioned a portrait he will do to the highest bidder on the evening donating all proceeds to the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital which I thought was a very nice gesture indeed. He also curated the exhibition Liverpool Love which is part of the fair and a must see for some great art works by the likes of Brendan Neiland, Gaston Ugalde, Noel Fielding, Patrick Hughes, Stuart Sutcliffe, Thomas Doran, Christian himself of course and lots more.

Go For Your Gun by Mackenzie Thorpe

Go For Your Gun by Mackenzie Thorpe

An artist I loved was  Mackenzie Thorpe and I really enjoyed speaking to Wendy who was representing him. He’s colour blind which doesn’t surprise me as many artists are. She also told me she’d had dinner the night before at San Carlo supposedly the best restaurant in Liverpool where she’d met – wait for it – Chris de Burgh. Remember ‘Don’t pay the Ferryman‘ and Lady in Red’? A throw back to my teenage years growing up in Dublin. Well after a couple of shots of Agwa de Bolivia (compliments of Agwa de Bolivia and Liverpool Love) and thinking of Chris de Burgh, I decided to jump ship and headed to The Philharmonic Pub on Hope Street before dinner at The London Carriage Works restaurant which is part of Hope Street Hotel. Dinner was yummy – I had the chicken liver parfait followed by the duck and for dessert the sticky meringue. Thankfully I’m starting the 5:2 diet soon or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Anglican Cathedral Liverpool

From the moment I arrived in Liverpool everyone kept saying there’s so much to do and actually there is. The next day I put my tourist hat on and mossied down to Albert Dock where I spent an hour at the International Slavery Museum (from Wiki “By the close of the 18th century 40% of the world’s, and 80% of Britain’s Atlantic slave activity was accounted for by slave ships that voyaged from the docks of Liverpool” – wow didn’t know that) and over an hour at The Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story at the Merseyside Maritime Museum – really fascinating.  Out of a sense of guilt I poked my head into both the Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals – not for me – but I did like the pink neon sign in the Anglican Cathedral which reads “I Felt You And I Knew You Loved Me” although personally, I think it would be more suited at the Biennial.

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Later that afternoon I went on a black cab Beatles Tour. There was five of us in the cab as the cabby waxed lyrical about John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe – one of his works at the Liverpool Love exhibition. I learnt a lot about the Beatles that I didn’t know before – for example Stawberry Field was an orphanage where John Lennon liked to hang out when he was about 11 or 12. Surprisingly however the tour didn’t include a trip to the Cavern but ended at Eleanor Rigby’s grave site which was a bit of a let down.

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My train back to London was at 7:50 pm so after the tour, I had a quick bite in the dining room of The Philharmonic Pub – not bad at all – then headed to the station. It’s a pity I couldn’t stay another night but I needed to be back in London today. Anyway, if you fancy a relaxed, culture-filled weekend away Liverpool is defo worth a visit and if you’re looking for a hotel I highly recommend The Hope Street Hotel – brilliant staff, nice rooms, great restaurant and the girls behind the desk will be able to tell you all you need to know.

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Top Picks at The Affordable Art Fair London March 13-16

It’s a March sunny London weekend and there’s a lot you could do from having a picnic on Hampstead Heath, to rummaging in a market, to hanging out on the Southbank. Or  here’s another suggestion: Take the tube to Sloane Square, have breaky or lunch in Colbert, leaving Colbert turn right and immediate right again where you’ll find a shuttle bus waiting for you . Get on – it will deliver you straight to the door of the Affordable Art Fair at Battersea Park. P.S. Don’t worry if the wait in Colbert is too long, there’s a cafe and champagne bar at the fair.

My top picks at The Affordable Art Fair  running in London this weekend:

Ring-a-zing-zing by Lucie Bennett

Ring-a-zing-zing by Lucie Bennett 2013, 79 x 108 cms, screenprint on paper, edition of 75, £950

Over the past ten years, Lucie Bennett has become well known for her Glicee prints (prints made from digitally-created imagery) and silkscreen prints. As Carys Lake-Edwards of Eyestorm online gallery writes, “She first came into the limelight back in 2004 when her work featured in the first British series of The Apprentice where the contestants hosted a solo show of her paintings in London’s most established gallery row, Cork Street. Since then her work has continuously drawn worldwide interest from new potential art buyers and established collectors alike.” She explains why Bennett’s prints are investment pieces which you can read about here.

'Oh Yeah' by Jennifer Ward

‘Oh Yeah’ by Jennifer Ward 2013, oil on paper 97 x 73cm, £1100

A stomach full of anxiety churns underneath a bikini perfect bod – it’s a double edged sword being beautiful in Jennifer Ward‘s world. The artist expresses her mixed-up feelings in big brush strokes and strong colours.  Rufus Knight-Webb, director of Knight Webb Gallery will happily chat to you about the artist and pull out more of her works to show you. Worth having a peek I think.

Beetle Rider by Tessa Farmer

On the left: Beetle Rider by Tessa Farmer, an edition of 12, £550, on the right Captured Bee, one off £1250.

Enter into the world of giant size insects and minuscule skeletons made from insect wings by Tessa Farmer. Intricate and playful – by 3.00 pm yesterday there was only one left of ‘Beetle Rider’ out of an edition of 12 – maybe gone now too. Go to the bo.lee gallery stand for more info.

Polar Bear and Dog by Herve Maury

Polar Bear and Dog by Herve Maury, mixed media, £1,350

Hervé Maury expresses the tender side of life. He’s represented by Glasgow based gallery Tracey McNee Fine Art.

Marilyn Monroe in Misfits by Olivier Camen

Marilyn Monroe in Misfits by Olivier Camen Mixed media on canvas 81x100cm £3,200

Marilyn, Marilyn, Marilyn – you just keep giving and giving and giving – inspiration that is. French artist Olivier Camen  used to work in cinema and – I hope I have this right – his grandfather taught him how to be seamster. He gave up working in the movies to work full time as an artist combining his knowledge of film and fabric. He’s represented here by Bernard Chauchet Contemporary Art who concentrate on French artists.

Father and Son II by Ishai Rimmer

Father and Son II by Ishai Rimmer, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 120 cms, 2012, £900

Last but not least, Father and Son II by Ishai Rimmer at the jotta stand. It’s not one for my livingroom wall personally, but I feel compelled to mention it as it captures such a strong bond between father and son and a life time’s worth of unacknowledged feelings between two men – well that’s just how it struck me.

I could go on and on but as I said the sun is shinning here in London and I’m dying to get out and about. Just to remind you, works start from £40 and go up to £4,000. There’s something for everyone and well worth a visit especially if you’re in the mood to make a purchase.