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Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL Tel: 0161 235 8888 Open Tuesday - Sunday 10am - 5pm (some special events outside these times) Closed Mondays (except Bank Holidays) www.manchestergalleries.org The good thing about Manchester in general is that most places of interest are within easy walking distance and there are 4 free bus services around the city centre (1, 2, 3 and 4). The no2 from Victoria station stops at the gallery or the tram system stops at Mosley street or St Peters Square. If your knowledge of art stops at Rolf Harris and impressionist bring to mind John Culshaw or Rory Bremner then do not let this put you off visiting your nearest art gallery. You may be pleasantly surprised. I do not pretend to know much about art and I suppose this is why I have only recently rediscovered the joys of looking around Manchesters art galleries. For this reason I will not go into too much detail about individual pieces or artists as everyone has different tastes. There really is more to this award winning gallery than you may realise and if you live or work in the city or even spending a day in Manchester you could do worse than spending an hour or two in here. A ramp is provided for wheelchairs and buggys (wheelchairs can be borrowed) and toilet and baby changing facilities are provided with lift access to all 3 floors. Here are just a few of the highlights. As you enter this impressive building you are immediately greeted by staff who will happily point you in the right direction if you are looking for a particular gallery. From paintings to sculpture, decorative art, pottery, furniture and much more, its all here. Three floors spanning six centuries of art and design. On the ground floor you will find works featuring Manchesters 200 year textile history to contemporary works featuring LS Lowry and Adolphe Vallete. This floor also houses the shop cafe and toilets. The first floor includes 18th and 19th century landscapes and portraits, Pre-Raphaelites, Victorian art and design to 20th century contemporary art. On this floor you will find William Etty's huge "Sirens and Ulysses" which is currently being restored. You can find out all about the restoration in great detail and even watch and ask questions as the conservators carry out their work.There is also an interactive gallery for children. On the second floor you will find the Craft and Design gallery and the most impressive space the building, the special exhibitions gallery. You can usual expect a well presented mix of audio and visual installations in this gallery. Until 2 September 2007 this houses the excellent Kylie Minogue exhibition with hundreds of items of memorabillia, awards and many of her costumes on display (see earlier review). Another recent exhibition was a retrospective of sixties designer Joe Columbo with items of furniture including chairs sofas and complete rooms as well as other works of this iconic designer. If you only have a limited time make sure you at least visit the 2nd floor. To really get the most out of your visit particularly the special exhibitions, it is worth looking out for the curators tours where you can find out more information and ask questions and these are of course free but booking may be necessary. There are always many special events such as artist talks and lectures and even tours of Manchester throughout the year and currently there are many events based on the Kylie exhibition for both adults and children most of which are free. Check the website for more details.
Do you feel art galleries offer access to everyone? By access I mean physically, and mentally. Most art galleries especially those run by councils or funded by the government have to have a social inclusion policy and have targets to meet that include unrepressed groups including children, youths and socially disadvantaged people. The Guardian now has a campaign for child friendly museums and art galleries. It seemed a good idea to visit an Art Gallery to see how accessible they really are. I chose the recently refurbished Manchester City Art Gallery as it does pride itself to be a very easy art gallery for people to access. I do know they used a panel of children from a local school alongside focus groups of parents and teachers to consult them about what they wanted from an art gallery. I have been to the Manchester city art Gallery before but I wanted to see the Jim Medway exhibition of Mancunian cat drawings. I must be a gluten for punishment as I have just finished my masters dissertation in heritage studies and what do I do go and visit an Art gallery then write about it!! Manchester City Art Gallery dates back from the nineteenth century and now has over 25000 items spanning several centuries. Over 2000 of these pieces can be on show at one time The collection is housed in a beautiful neo classical building with a very modern glass interior. Where is Manchester City Art Gallery? The art gallery is right in the city centre on the corner of Mosley Street and Princess Street. It is easily accessible as it is a couple of minutes walk from both the town hall and Piccadilly Gardens where all the public transport stops. The Ground Floor Once I strode up the steps and entered the impressive building I arrived in an entrance hall. I feel there is a little confusion on where to go at first. There is an information desk to the side but I look round the entrance hall. There are wheelchairs so physical access is possible to those with mobility problems. There is also a demonstration of different audio tours including one for the visually impaired, a family tour and tours in Chinese and Bengali. Unfortunately all the hand sets had disappeared. There was no notice to say how much these tours were. .Once I got my bearings I went into the first gallery the Manchester gallery sponsored by the CIS, a prominent firm in Manchester. The Manchester gallery. This gallery is all about any art at all that is produced in or is about Manchester. This is not just paintings and drawings; it includes crafts films and photography. The gallery included different themes including The changing face of Piccadilly Gardens, made in Manchester, Pride and a section on Ancoatrs (an area just to the north of Manchester city centre where many of the cotton mills were located). The exhibition was a bit confusing as there were mirrors in place so it looked bigger than it actually was. Everything was well labeled and there was also a gallery guide in a folder if you wanted further information. There was information on community work in Manchester which I think is good. The community project was a glass display that was very pretty and blended in well with the display of Manchester glass. There were some lovely portraits in the exhibition and there were the obligatory Loweys. Lowery does not do much for me but I do like his picture of Piccadilly Gardens as I know the place and can relate to it. There were audio visuals to watch and benches were provided so you can sit down and watch them. One of the audio visuals was an episode of Andy Pandy as the film studies Cosgrove Pictures who made Andy Pandy and a lot of other children?s programs was based in Chorlton in South Manchester. Other things that stood out were record covers and T shirts making me think what exactly art is. One thing I liked about Manchester Art Gallery is that they encourage audience participation and feedback through comment boards. In the Manchester Gallery there is a wall of comments about Manchester including favourite places and favourite parts of the exhibition. It looks really good and is something different rather than a boring old visitor?s book. The good thing about this exhibitin is that you can relate to a lot of the artifacts as it is Manchester themed. This is a great way to bring social inclusion as a picture of Piccadilly Gardens seems more relevant than a Constable landscape to some people, The Jim Medway exhibition This was the exhibition I had specifically come to see. Jim Medway is a Mancunian artist that draws anthromorpic cats. These are cats in clothes doing human stuff. This may sound cute but these cats are meant to represent Mancunian youths in their natural environment. These are cats slouching and dressed in Slipknot T shirts or with Mohawks! They do seem to have an attitude and you can picture the people behind the cat faces. I love the drawing in the Manchester Gallery of Oxford Road at night. It just seemed to capture that route completely with the number 42 bus and fights!!. The actual exhibition is based around the newly refurbished Piccadilly Gardens. The drawings were crisp and clean. My favourtie had to be the one of the fountains in Piccadilly Gardens with kids and youths playing in the fountains. It reminds me of the hot sunny days of the summer when this scene was very common. They also had a comments board where some kids had drawn cats or written about their own cats. This was a nice touch. I really enjoyed the exhibition but I am not sure if it is everyone?s taste. These were the two main galleries on the ground floor. Toilets I had to visit the toilets and found them to be very clean and modern. There were ample facilities for the disabled too. Whilst I was on the ground floor I thought I would check out the shop and the restaurant. I also picked up a leaflet on a Turner exhibition on the sec ond f loor. I was interested in going to see it until I noticed the price. It was 5 pound for adults, 4 pound for concessions but was free for under 18s. I suppose this was to attract the schools market especially GCSE and A level students. I was disappointed that the price of this blockbuster exhibition was that steep. I would have been prepared to pay two or three pounds but not four pounds if I could have got a student discount. This is where their access for everyone policy falls down as only those who can afford to pay can get to see the special exhibitions The Shop. The shop seemed pretty good. It sold a good range of art inspired merchandise including books, postcards, prints and cards alongside activities for children The café/restaurant This is also where the access for all falls down as it is expensive. There is a menu for children but I did not get to that. I was tempted to have a coffee but the prices of things before the coffee put me off. It was #5.95 for a bowl of soup and a sandwich and over 7 pound for a bowl of soup and a salad. A packet of Sensations crisps was about 85 p. The cakes looked good and very gooey but I hate to think what they cost so I went back to the entrance hall to climb the stairs to the next floor The second floor is where most of the main galleries are. They are arranged either thematically or chronologically. I actually drifted a wee bit in these as there were too many paintings. I was impressed with the interpretation as they did have cards in different languages including Chinese, Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, French, Japanese, Spanish and German. I did like some of the Victorian and pre Raphaelite galleries as I like very romantic paintings. I think I am quite conservative when it comes to art. I did like a more modern painting of a face that was textured and contoured and really worked. I found the modern art galleries harder as I find it quite hard to interpret. There was a green pai nting with red and blue dashes. It reminded me of a pool table there was also a weirdly shaped TV. This really confused me. The Clore Interactive Gallery This is the main attraction on the first floor. It is a gallery with children in mind and it is brilliant. When I was in this particular gallery there were no children just adults trying out the interactives and having great fun in the process. The aim of this gallery is to take a piece of art whether it is a painting, drawing or sculpture and then takes an aspect of it to demonstrate to children the meaning of the piece of art. This aspect might be movement, or colour. It really is a fantastic gallery. Some of the interactives are very simply but very effective. There is one based on a sculpture of a face that is made up of everyday objects. The activity is to make a similar sculpture with objects such as scourers, hot water brittles and paint brushes that have magnets fixed on them. It was great fun. Anointer great one is based around a painting of a chariot race. There is an interactive where you can take part in the race by tapping a spot which is sort of like a lap top moue and the little chariot moves. These interactives really bring the artwork to life and are moiré enjoyable for ids and adults alike than just looking at a paining. Some of the interactives are more complex and use multimedia programs such as touch screens and sound. On of the most effective multi media interactives is one based on a painting of a girl reading a book. The theme is tranquility. You sit in a booth and watch the girl reading the book. The aim is to sit still but she moves and smiles, and scratches and does all sorts of things. If you smile or laugh the film finishes ! The Portrait gallery There is also a gallery dedicated to self portraits. There are drawing tables where children and adults can draw their self portraits and the best ones will be displayed in a forthcoming exhibiti on Onc e I had finished the second floor I decided to take a look at the third floor. This had the Turner exhibition that I could not go in. the craft and design gallery and a special exhibition by Drydan Goodwin called Dilate The Craft and Design Gallery. This was interesting as it showed craft work as a form of art. It documented different areas of craft such as silverware, woodwork furniture design and pottery. My favourite part of this was an area where you could touch different textured pieces. This was ideal for visually impaired people. Dilate. This confused me as I could not find it. I eventually found a darkened room with screens. I stepped into the middle. Different images flashed on and off the screens. Some images gave a panoramic view. I was not sure I would call this art myself but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. When is the gallery open? It is open 10.00 to 17.00 from Tuesday to Sunday. It is free to get in apart from special exhibitions. There is also a program of special events including talks and guided tours. More information can be found at http://www.manchestergalleries.org/index.html So to return to the question I set at the beginning of the review is Manchester Art Gallery accessible for everyone? My answer is it is accessible to a great extent. It is exceptionally good for those with physical disabilities. It also has good language provision for those who do not have English as their first language. This is important as Manchester does have a large ethnic population. I felt the Manchester Gallery would be very accessible and relevant to most people and the Clore Interactive Gallery made children feel welcome and was fun for everyone. I also enjoyed the comments boards that encouraged audience participation and feedback. However I felt the café was too expensive and it was shame that the Turner Exhibition was not accessible to those on a limited budg et. Finall y Would I visit again? Certainly I want to see the Self Portrait UK and Rosy Cheek and harsh realties (A country Childhood) special exhibitions! I think this is a great place to visit if you have an hour or two if you are in Manchester City Centre.
A few weeks back, daughter no. 2 and I were out giving the dogs a run in Wythenshawe Park. It was the first time we’d been there, and although we knew it was large, we hadn’t expected to come across a half-timbered Tudor house in the middle of it. On closer inspection, we found that Wythenshawe Hall now houses an art gallery, so we decided to return another day, when daughter no. 1 would be with us, and take a look around. We went today. As an art gallery, part of Manchester City Art Galleries, I can’t say I was impressed. Sure, there were some old paintings there, but there was too little information about them to hold my interest. Daughter no. 1, who’s probably more interested in art than me, also found it something of a disappointment. The house itself was interesting though, and the Tudor section dates back to 1540. That’s a long way back! Evidently, the house was built by one Robert Tatton. The house remained in the same family up until 1926, when Ernest Simon, then Lord Mayor of Manchester, and his wife, bought the house and donated it to the people of Manchester. What an extraordinary thing to do. It’s sound as if they were probably very nice people. You’d have to be to give a house like that away wouldn’t you? The house has been extended several times over the years so it’s a hotchpotch of styles. I’ve no idea which styles are represented, I don’t know enough about early building styles to be able to even make a guess, but just by looking at the front of the building you’re left in no doubt as to which parts are extensions. I found that just gave the place a charm of its own. Somewhat disorganised you could say, rather like me. I would have liked to explore the entire house, but unfortunately only the main part of the hall, the Tudor part, is open to the public. But with free admission, you can’t really complain. The old wood carvings were impressive, and the furnishings made me realise just how comfortable my old three-piece suite actually is! On the second floor there are some visible beams in one of the walls. If you look closely, you can see traces of graffiti on them. No, don’t worry, some little tyke hasn’t been writing all over them with felt tip. They were made by the workmen who built the original house! They doodled their patterns on to beams that had been taken when another properly, dating back to medieval times, was demolished, and the timber re-used to build Wythenshawe Hall. Behind the house is a tree and shrub garden. Walking through this small wood is enchanting. I’ve no idea how many varieties are represented, but it felt as though every tree that can grow in our climate must have been there. There were certainly a good few varieties I’d never seen before. There were lots of shrubs, but the huge rhododendron and azalea were my favourites. The explosions of colour they produced amongst the cool green of the trees was dazzling. The park’s also well tended, with a visitor’s center where the wardens are helpful with information about the park and hall, and happy to answer your questions. The whole thing made for a lovely afternoon out and I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t cost me a penny. No, sorry…. It cost £1 to park the car. But what’s a pound for an afternoon of relaxation in fascinating, historic surroundings?