A look ahead to the Keith Haring exhibition at Tate Liverpool

Keith Haring, woodcut 1983
(c) Keith Haring Foundation

Keith Haring, woodcut 1983 (c) Keith Haring Foundation - Credit: Archant

There’s never been a better time to spend a day in Liverpool, says Mike Pinnington

Keith Haring poster, 1986
(c) Keith Haring Foundation

Keith Haring poster, 1986 (c) Keith Haring Foundation - Credit: Archant

Been to Liverpool lately? 2018 marked a decade since the city's time as European capital of culture; in the intervening years, things have changed - big style!

A combination of investment, attitude and ambition have seen the city grow into the UK's second largest regional economy and a day-tripper destination par excellence.

For culture vultures, this summer is the perfect time to visit, too, with Tate Liverpool's Keith Haring (1958-1990) exhibition. Situated on the Royal Albert Dock, on a warm day, there are fewer places in Liverpool - or anywhere for that matter - better to stroll around, people watching. Before hitting the gallery, grab a cuppa and some breakfast at any number of the new independent coffee shops that have sprung up on the dock in the last few months. You could do worse than head to the Britannia Pavilion's Rough Hand Made bakery, for amazing (take it from one who knows!) cruffins and coffee.

Back to Haring: opening 14 June, this will be the UK's first major exhibition of the artist and activist who made a huge impact in New York in the 1980s. With his immediately recognisable iconographic work and close association with activism, Haring has practically become a byword for those times. Arriving in New York from small town rural USA, the young artist quickly graduated from drawing with chalk - albeit impressively - in the city's subways to finding his people (peers included Madonna and Jean-Michel Basquiat) and fame.

Rediscover vinyl @ Probe Records
(c) Bluecoat

Rediscover vinyl @ Probe Records (c) Bluecoat - Credit: Bluecoat

Gallery representation followed, though he never lost his head. His art, he said, was always about being inclusive and 'was made for lots of people'.

Tate's exhibition traces his development across more than 85 artworks including large, vibrant paintings and drawings, club flyers and more. It also tackles his main concern: activism. Haring understood his privileged position attained through art, and used it to speak for a generation, responding to politics, racism, homophobia, drug addiction, AIDS awareness, capitalism and the environment. Tate Liverpool curator Darren Pih says: 'Visitors will be fully immersed into the world and work of Haring in an exhibition that revisits the cultural energy of 1980s New York. Although best known for his iconic visual language, we will offer visitors the opportunity to understand more about Haring's motives as an artist and see that activism played a key part in his career.' A timely once-in-a-lifetime show awaits.

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Away from Tate Liverpool, make the short walk to the city's main shopping district in Liverpool One, where you can decompress with some brunch at Thoughtfully Café. If you're after a recommendation among the temptations, we'd suggest the amazing French toast and Bischoff spread paired with a cappuccino - for our money, one of the best in the city. Next, avoiding the slew of shoppers, you'll want to take a detour away from the city centre, with a leisurely 15-minute stroll towards the thriving Baltic Triangle. Once a no go neglected post-industrial part of town, today it's home to start-ups, cafés, shops and bars. Pop into Dorothy, a shop and studio specialising in design. Five minutes further out of town, in what was once Cains Brewery, you'll find Red Brick, a covered vintage shop and market, where assorted bric-a-brac, bargain homeware and clothes can be found in abundance.

If your appetite for shopping has merely been whetted, hop a cab back into town and waste no time with a trip to Probe Records at the historic Bluecoat on School Lane, the oldest building in Liverpool city centre. After which, dip in to the gallery to catch the latest free contemporary art exhibitions; from there, make your way to the comparative bustle of Bold Street and Resurrection. This long-standing indie clothes shop also houses a barbers, coffee shop and another record lovers dream, Dig Vinyl.

With an eye on the clock and that open return, don't panic, you're in the right part of town to make time for dinner. Up and down Bold Street, you're spoilt for choice. But amid the myriad burger and pizza options, Mowgli, 'an Indian home kitchen', is hard to argue with. Another no risk option just a few doors further up the street is Maray. With a communal, yet intimate dining vibe, established five years ago, it specialises in serving Middle Eastern-inspired small plates à la Paris' 4th arrondissement. If you visit, veggie or otherwise, make sure to order the succulent cauliflower, served with tahini, yoghurt and harissa. It won't disappoint. With just time and room left for a cocktail, treat yourself to an Agent Cooper - a 'damn fine riff on a 'spro Martini', this espresso, hazelnut, chocolate and vodka infused drink packs a punch that'll see you head home happy.

Haring @ Tate Liverpool, until 10 November | tate.org.uk