A unique public sculpture by internationally acclaimed artist Jorge Pardo is now located in Wolstenholme Square. Initiated by Tate Liverpool as part of the Liverpool Biennial 2002 and commissioned by the Liverpool Rope Walks Partnership, Penelope is Liverpool’s most colourful sculpture, comprising a ten metre tall creation of twisting steel stalks, ending in brightly coloured, illuminated Plexiglas spheres.
The stalks reflect the historical significance of the Rope Walks area, where in past centuries, the long ropes of ships were laid out in the streets to be plaited. Penelope refers to the Homer’s Odyssey, in which Ulysses’ wife, Penelope, faithfully awaited her husband’s return from the Trojan war. She put off numerous suitors by saying she had to finish weaving a robe, unravelling her day’s work each night. The story, about conjugal faithfulness, pursuit and thwarted desire is appropriate to the sculpture’s location in a square swarming with crowds of revellers at night.
Penelope took four weeks to construct and her pieces were specially constructed in Germany and Holland. Penelope is Pardo’s largest permanent piece of outdoor sculpture to date and takes the quality of artwork in Liverpool to another level. The sculpture provides an international centrepiece for Liverpool, while serving to endorse the city’s status as European Capital of Culture.
Commenting on his work, Christoph Grunenberg, director of Tate Liverpool, said:
We are delighted to have worked with Jorge Pardo and are grateful for his major contribution to public art in the city. Penelope is a work of international significance by one of the most important contemporary artists today. Pardo’s work redefines the notion of public sculpture. Penelope is monumental without being domineering or overpowering. It is a work that is bold, dynamic and exhilarating while directly referencing the history of the city and its immediate architectural situation. The sculpture will transform the square at day and at night, and provides a dramatic new landmark in central Liverpool.
Born in Cuba and resident in Los Angeles, Jorge Pardo is one of the most prominent contemporary artists working today. As well as exhibitions around the world he has realised a number of public art works, including for the German Parliament in Berlin and, most recently, a major commission for the Lever House in New York.