Tatsurou Bashi creates environments for sculptures and monuments in the public realm that pose questions and invent new contexts through the transformation of space.

He presents his provocative projects outside of a museum or art context in order to engage with the widest possible public and to enable his structures to be encountered within ‘normal’ reality. Bashi’s work deals with ideas about contexts for works of art, history and the present, the spaces that surround things, about urbanity and ultimately, the social fabric.

His work magically transforms the scale of public monuments and our relationship to them. It simultaneously evokes thoughts of Gulliver whilst pulling the rug from under our historically entrenched and often unconscious acceptance of social hierarchies. The relatively simple (in conceptual rather than practical terms) illusory removal of the sculpture’s plinth prompts a psychological transformation. The viewer no longer has to ‘look up’ to the statue either bodily or metaphorically. An act of democratisation occurs.

Bashi’s project for the International 2002 was entitled Villa Victoria – and took the shape of fully furnished and functioning hotel room and reception constructed around the Monument to Queen Victoria in Derby Square. This temporary structure was built around the statue in such a way that the pedestal of the central sculpture disappeared – enabling the hotel guest and visitor to stand at the same level as Queen Victoria.

Bashi transforms an archetypal public monument into an artwork, an event, and a meeting place complete with comfortable accommodation for travellers, albeit in an unusual setting. Together, the hotel, the guests and the sculpture of Queen Victoria symbolised travel, mobility, trade and community. The artist reflected: ‘In a hotel there are always lots of people from all over the world. This character of a hotel is quite similar to the character of a big seaport like Liverpool and therefore reflects an important aspect of the city’s history and identity.’

Villa Victoria (2002) was not only a giant, building-site-like object in the city, but was also a phenomenon that involved the visitor as viewer and participant – their role was key to the artwork/event that was constructed for them – the experience of the visitor was at the very heart of Bashi’s practice: ‘The main role of public sculpture is at its inauguration, but people forget the story and the reason for it very quickly and in time they even forget that the sculpture is there. When the sculpture is surrounded by my project, people notice it again and they also remember its story. The sculpture looks fresh and renewed, because you see it, standing in a room or foyer, and you see it from a new perspective.’

Tatsurou Bashi’s project highlighted and reminded us of the very nature of how and why such monuments exist and examines their relationship to the physical, historical, civic and social fabric of the city. In doing so, it offered a unique opportunity for visitors, whether residents of the city or tourists, to consider these questions within a refreshing and entertaining experience of one of Liverpool’s most prominent and historically significant sites.

Villa Victoria, 2002
Mixed media
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2002
Exhibited at Derby Square, Liverpool



Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes, Manchester
Henry Moore Foundation Contemporary Projects