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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Liam Curtin (b. 1951)

Self-taught sculptor, potter and designer of public artworks. Born in Liverpool, he trained as a teacher at Liverpool’s Christ’s College of Education. In 1994, he was appointed Manchester City Council’s first artist-in-residence, with a brief to devise ways of developing popular culture in the city’s Northern Quarter; in the following year he was one of the founders of the Northern Quarter Association; and in 1998 was appointed the lead concept artist for its public art scheme. Among his contributions to the scheme were ceramic street signs produced by Majolica Works, a studio he and the ceramic artist Wendy Jones had co-founded in 1986. In 1999, Curtin and Jones teamed up with another artist, Michael Trainor, to form The Art Department, which Blackpool Borough Council’s Art Development Service engaged as a public art consultancy for its ‘Great Promenade Show’, part of a multi-million-pound project to redevelop the city’s South Promenade. Curtin’s contribution – a collaboration with John Gooding – was High Tide Organ (installed May 2003) which, according to Curtin, ‘uses the swell of sea water at high tide to compress air in pipes which in turn sounds a series of musical chords, serenading the high tide’. Curtin’s other public artworks include The Final Splash, George Begg Building (University of Manchester), Sackville Street, Manchester, 1997; Rise (a celebration of Britain’s trade union movement), Chapel Street, Salford, Greater Manchester, 2004; Pavement Jewellery, a series of 58 bronze ingots decorated with subjects from local history, designed in collaboration with local artists and laid into the pavement at Cowley Road, Oxford, 2005; Time Lock (with Michael Trainor), Salford, 2006; a portrait of Mary Seacole, made from c.3,000 test tubes, for the Neil Cliffe Centre, Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, 2008, intended by Curtin as a thank-you to the centre’s nurses following his treatment for cancer; and Meccano Bridge, Bolton, 2013.

Bibliography: D.A. Cross, Public Sculpture of Lancashire and Cumbria, Liverpool, 2017, pp. 32–33, 199; Liam Curtin website; Majolica Works website; T. Wyke, Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, 2004, pp. 83, 138, 442.

Terry Cavanagh, March 2024