April 12, 2024

The John Moores Painting Prize and the Rise of the Sixties in Liverpool

February – March 2019.

Curated by Hana Leaper.

This research and archival-based exhibition brings material from the first decade of the John Moores Painting Prize together with records from other important cultural events and movements that soon followed in Liverpool during the sixties. It identifies the points of origin for the rise of a local youth culture that became a global phenomenon. 

In 1957, local businessman John Moores collaborated with the Walker Art Gallery to start a biennial painting prize. His aim was to regenerate the region’s arts in the aftermath of the Second World War, and for the exhibition to ‘act as a focus for cultural life on Merseyside’.

As the photographs and archival materials from the Walker Art Gallery show, the John Moores Painting Prize attracted the very best of British artistic talent. Kevin Donovan’s slideshow demonstrates how local school children and aspiring artists were inspired by visits to the Prize, and images of student work show that the Liverpool School of Art was thriving. The vibrant interplay of art, music, fashion, theatre and poetry around our city created a hothouse of radical culture. Figures like Adrian Henri and John Lennon connected these scenes and went on to promote them worldwide.

This exhibition celebrates John Moores’ bold vision for Liverpool’s future, and demonstrates how his investment in the cultural life of the city took hold, helping propel it to international fame. His name and the cultural legacy of the Prize continue to have an impact on the life of Liverpool Art School, which is now part of John Moores Liverpool University.