I go to Manchester fairly frequently, and I have made a habit of wandering through the city when I’m there on a day off. If the weather is nice, I walk through new neighborhoods or on new routes through favorite neighborhoods. But regardless of the weather, I’m likely to make a stop at the Manchester Art Gallery — it has become a real favorite over the years.
Here are some highlights from visits to the gallery, including both permanent pieces and temporary exhibitions that stuck out to me.
At the entrance to the gallery, you can see a neon sign by the artist Waqas Khan reading “Welcome” in Urdu (also in Farsi, making it a delightful surprise for me). I first spotted another of his signs outside the Manchester Museum in February 2018, and saw his third sign when I visited the Whitworth Art Gallery later in the year.
There are some pieces in the gallery’s permanent collection that I enjoy coming back to time and time again. When I first went into the room with paintings of Scotland, I remember standing for a long while in front of Peter Graham’s A Spate In The Highlands:
The violence of the river, the delicacy of the clouds, the light on the hills in the background … you almost miss the person in the middle of it all. The way that Graham captures the light is probably my favorite though, and it’s what I like most about his painting Highland Cattle, Perthshire as well. It’s the same quality of light that I love to see when I’m walking in North Wales.
This is one of my favorite rooms in the permanent collection, and other paintings that have caught my eye there include Henry Moore’s Arran (I love the impasto technique used in it) and Joseph Farquharson’s ‘The Sun Had Closed The Winter Day.’
Throughout the gallery are “feminist revisions,” rewrites of the informational boards in each rooms from a feminist perspective. I love seeing these side by side:
One of my visits included some additional feminist revisions, the first being an exhibition of works by Caroline Broadhead and Maisie Broadhead. I was especially taken by Maisie Broadhead’s Seeping Sappho, a take on Charles-August Mengin’s Sappho on display in another part of the gallery:
Around the same time I first encountered an exhibition called And Breathe…, a mindfulness exhibition that was so successful that it lasted from 2018 (when I first saw it) through the beginning of this year. The room contained a small selection of paintings and comfortable chairs or sofas to sit on. A QR code on the wall took you to a series of recorded meditations specifically about each painting, designed to make you slow down and help you look at the paintings mindfully. I can’t explain how much I loved this exhibition, and loved coming back to it as the paintings changed over time.
On a more recent visit to the gallery, I was captivated by Halima Cassell‘s Virtues of Unity, with ceramic sculptures created from clay sourced from all over the world:
It has been a while since I was last at the gallery, and I’m feeling like it’s time for another visit. On a cold or rainy day when I have nothing else planned, it can be so nice to just hide out there and wander through the rooms. I tend to just go and let myself be surprised by what’s on at the time, but I am looking forward to the Out of the Crate exhibition of their sculpture collection.
Do you have a favorite place to revisit or spend your rainy days in your area? Or a favorite museum or gallery you discovered on a trip to another city?