Story of global Chinatowns to unfold in Liverpool

Europe's biggest traditional Chinese Arch which dominates Liverpool's Chinatown is to be given a starring role in Britain's biggest contemporary arts festival, it was announced Monday.

The Liverpool Biennial took the wraps off its program, announcing that 37 international artists, including several from China, have already been signed up to create commissions for the event which runs for 14 weeks from July 9, 2016.

Many of the events - described as stories or episodes - will take inspiration from Liverpool's present, past and future, including the Chinatown arch, built 15 years ago to cement Liverpool's links with its sister city of Shanghai.

Organisers of the festival are saying little about what to expect, but have said the arch, a leading tourist attraction in the city, will be imagined as a portal through time and space, connecting Chinatowns across the world.

A Biennial spokeswoman said today: "Chinatown is a starting point for the curators and artists, and we do not know yet what shape exactly this will take throughout the Biennial. Chinatown has existed in Liverpool since the 1800s, and is the oldest established in Europe. Nowadays there are many Chinatowns across the world, sometimes there are several in a single city. Many have a traditional Chinese arch to mark their location. Liverpool's arch was imported in pieces from Shanghai, and it is decorated in red and gold, with two hundred dragons. The architectural style has a universal quality, and perhaps this arch, and others like it, is a portal to all the other Chinatowns, everywhere. The universality of these displaced and artificial versions of China points at the original immigrants' necessity to produce a version of their country of origin, a fictional world to compensate the hostile environment of the host country."

As well as Chinatown, next year's festival of newly commissioned contemporary art will unfold through the landscape of the city, organised as a story narrated in several episodes.

There will be fictional worlds sited in galleries, museums, pubs, unused spaces, stations, hotels, parking lots, shops and supermarkets.

Each of the commissioned artists will make new work for the Biennial, presented in a series of locations across the city outdoors and indoors and in Liverpool's leading art venues including the nationally.

Already confirmed as taking part is celebrated Chinese artist Lu Pingyuan. Born in Zhejiang Province in 1984, he graduated from Shanghai Institute of Design, China Academy of Art in 1984 and now lives and works in Shanghai.

Sally Tallant, director of Liverpool Biennial, said today: "We are looking forward to working with artists from Asia, India, North and South America, the Middle East, Russia and Europe. It is exciting to bring these artists together with the people of Liverpool to make this a place where art and artists can thrive and to create a focus for international contemporary art."