Review: Bluecoat Display Centre at 60

Bluecoat Display Centre when it first opened

Bluecoat Display Centre at 60
60 @thebdc, open until 2nd March 2019

In sixty years, the Bluecoat Display Centre has probably done more for local makers than any other gallery. It has enabled the sale and exhibition of artists who respect their craft to the point it can entirely define their work.

It has also created local icons out of artists, whose work is now part of the fabric Liverpool.
Emma Rodgers, showing alongside their 60th birthday exhibition with a solo display in the window is a perfect example of that. Her work, which has received international acclaim, and placed her firmly in the ranks of the best ceramic artists in the world is a permenant resident in the Display Centre.

Sadly, this time last year we also lost Julia Carter-Preston, one of the most respected ceramicists of the 20th century, whose work revived sgraffito, and one of the most recognisable artists to sell through Bluecoat Display Centre.

In company like this, and under their legacy, emerging artists, jewellers, print-makers, ceramicists, carpenters and metalsmiths are all exhibiting as part of a sixtieth anniversary exhibition, marking the start of a long future for the gallery, and many fruitful relationships with artists who may well be the Carter-Prestons of the future.

I was a little late to the party for 60 @thebdc, so by the time I went to see it, only a week after it launched, almost all the work on show was sold. It’s not hard to see why though, with 60 artists selling work at £60, including the biggest names in the BDC’s collection, it’s an unmissable collection of craft and design.

One of the loveliest additions to the show though was a photograph I hadn’t seen before, of the display centre when it had only just opened, with the window looking out onto a very different version of College Lane.

Bluecoat Display Centre has changed so much over sixty years that it’s barely recognisable, but the thing that drives the gallery is exactly as it was back then. They support craft and share it with ardent and passionate collectors.

Where they should take the most pride is in their ability to remain in place, not hanging on, but thriving, in a part of town that serves as one of the main entrances to the UK’s sixth largest shopping centre. That’s not gentrification, that’s full scale city centre transformation and commercialisation, yet Bluecoat Chambers, Bluecoat and Bluecoat Display Centre stay put, defining the area rather than a side note from history.

Bluecoat Display Centre in 2019


60 @thebdc is open until 2nd March 2019
Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith