“2020 Vision: Magellan’s Voyage of Discovery”

Liverpool Book Art is excited to announce its fourth major exhibition of Book Art. Following the great success of our 2018 ‘Frankenstein’ exhibition, we have selected a significant anniversary in world history as the theme for our next exhibition.

2020 marks 500 years since Ferdinand Magellan discovered the passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, at the southern tip of South America, now known as the Strait of Magellan. All previous expeditions from western Europe to the ‘Spice Islands’ (Maluku Islands, now part of Indonesia) had travelled eastwards, sailing around Africa. Magellan’s expedition was the first to circumnavigate the entire globe, and it was Magellan who named the Pacific Ocean (the ‘peaceful sea’).

So Magellan’s expedition was the beginning of our understanding of the overall geography of the Earth, as well as being hugely significant for the development of global trade. It was not until the late 19th century that alternative routes were considered, by attempting to build a Panama canal.

Magellan was an explorer and entrepreneur, rather than a military leader. While his aim was to discover new trade routes, rather than to conquer, it is impossible to separate his expedition from the wider context of western European politics, empire-building and the expansion of Christianity.

Some initial aspects book artists may wish to explore include:

  • Magellan’s life as an explorer (Magellan was Portuguese, but his expedition was funded by the Spanish king, after his proposal was rejected by his home country)
  • The Voyage, which lasted from 1519 to 1521, and included starvation, mutiny, desertion and one of the 5 ships being lost in a storm. Fewer than 30 of the crew of 270 survived to return to Spain
  • How the crew responded to the extreme conditions (months without sufficient food or fresh water; the isolation – both generally and being at sea; the lack of any communication or back-up etc.)
  • European empires, colonization and exploitation – ‘civilization’ and religion (Magellan’s expedition followed the Treaty of Tordesillas, which divided the world between the two Catholic empires of Spain and Portugal. Most Protestant and other non-Catholic nations ignored the Treaty!)
  • Non-European perspectives & reactions to European traders and colonizers
  • Global connectivity (trade and communications: not until the end of the 19th century were alternatives to the physical movement of people, goods and messages invented)
  • What is valued (financially), and how & why that changes over time

The Spanish celebrations of the voyage are running throughout the 3 years of the anniversary (2019-2021), and are centred in Cadiz. See http://vcentenario.es/ . The Wikipedia page on Magellan provides a lot of detailed information on the voyage, and all the events along the way.

The Exhibition will open in Liverpool, in the week beginning 18th May 2020, and will run for 2 or 3 months. Other exhibition dates are to be finalised. The Exhibition is expected to tour throughout 2020, including Bower Ashton Library at UWE, Bristol; and other UK venues. Potential venues in Spain and Portugal are also being explored.

The timetable is therefore

  • The Call for proposals is now open on Curator Space http://www.curatorspace.com/ (search for Magellan if you can’t find it immediately) which includes full details of the application process, including the size of the available display cabinets in Liverpool Central Library.
  • Call closes on 11th January 2020. NB This is the deadline for proposals, not completed works!
  • Selection of Works by 20th January
  • 20th Jan – 20th April: Creation of selected works
  • Delivery of Selected Works to Liverpool Central Library by 20th April
  • Please note that there is a submission fee of £10 for each entry