Manchester is a great city to explore as an art lover as it contains a number of award-winning galleries and dedicated design centres. If you have more time to spend exploring the area, day trips to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park or to see Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ installation at Crosby Beach are essential, but for those with only 24 hours to explore Manchester, here is our essential Art Lover’s Guide.
Whitworth Art Gallery
A recent £15million development of one of Manchester’s most beloved galleries has propelled the Whitworth into the limelight, securing numerous national awards since it reopened its doors. Located on the Oxford Road corridor, make the Whitworth your first stop of the day, arriving early as there is so much to see both inside and outside in the sculpture garden. Current exhibitions include a collection of Andy Warhol’s works and a solo exhibition from Idris Kahn, while past exhibits have included works by Cornelia Parker, Cai Guo-Qiang and collaborations with Manchester International Festival.
Insider’s Tip: Keep your eyes peeled on the website to stay up to date with the galley’s exciting events, including a series of Tuesday Talks, Thursday Lates and probable collaborations with this year’s MIF.
A recent opening in Manchester’s art scene, HOME has secured its place as the city’s cultural hub offering a programme of contemporary art, theatre and film. If you’re heading back into the city centre after your trip to the Whitworth, take the time to stop off at HOME on the way to admire the current exhibitions and perhaps grab a bite to eat.
Insider’s Tip: HOME is also the perfect place to spend an evening. Take a look at the current programme of film screenings and theatrical performances and ensure that you take the time to enjoy a cocktail at the bar afterwards.
Manchester Art Gallery
Conveniently located in the city centre, Manchester Art Gallery hosts a collection of 25,000 pieces of fine art, decorative art and costume along with an exciting rotating series of exhibitions. Past exhibitions have included dynamic displays by the likes of Joana Vasconcelos and fully immersive experiences such as The First Cut, an exhibition dedicated to the use of paper in art.
Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art
Based in the Northern Quarter, the CFCCA promotes contemporary Chinese art through a series of rotating exhibitions, artist residency schemes and a small shop selling craft and design pieces. The Centre also offers a variety of events with upcoming film screenings, talks and workshops available for a small charge.
PS Mirabel and Paper
Located close to Victoria train station, Mirabel Studios helps to support local talent through the two small contemporary art galleries located in the same building. PS Mirabel is an artist-run exhibition space open on Saturdays, where constantly changing exhibits often focus around a shared theme. Paper Gallery showcases the works of emerging artists whose art focuses on the medium of paper.
Insider’s Tip: Both galleries can open to the public on other days of the week by appointment. Get in touch before your trip to try to arrange a visit. There are also Open Studios events twice a year, where visitors can view the artists working in their own studios.
For lovers of street art, graffiti and urban sculptures, there is plenty to discover in Manchester’s Northern Quarter and Ancoats neighbourhoods. A simple stroll around the streets will unveil a dynamic display of large-scale art works, hidden sculptures and subtle signage (as well as plenty of the infamous Space Invader mosaics) that urban art lovers will adore.
Since last year’s Cities of Hope festival, there have been more gigantic murals and subtle smaller pieces of art than ever before to discover in the area. Try wandering down Back Piccadilly, Port Street, Tariff Street, Tib Street, Faraday Street, Spear Street and Gun Street to discover a magnitude of colourful and innovative art.
Also ensure that you check out the ever-changing street art at the Outhouse project on Stevenson Square, where disused public toilets are always adorned in a colourful array of graffiti that often reflect popular culture.
Insider’s Tip: Manchester resident, Hayley Flynn runs an award-winning blog named Skyliner, documenting some of the more interesting stories behind the city’s buildings. Hayley offers a variety of tours around the city centre, including A Modern History of the Northern Quarter, told through its various artworks. Book onto the tour to discover more about the area, its gentrification and its street art.
Fred Aldous is a Manchester institution; a family-run arts and crafts shop that has been selling art supplies to the locals for over 130 years. Throughout the two floors, visitors can browse a huge collection of paper, pens, paints and anything else that you need to create your own works of art. There’s also plenty to choose from for gifts, alongside a wide selection of notebooks, art books and cards.
Insider’s Tip: Hop inside one of the old school photo-booths for black and white mementos of your trip.
Manchester Craft & Design Centre
Even in the Northern Quarter you can discover hidden gems. The Manchester Craft & Design Centre is tucked up a side street, located inside a former Victorian fish market. Inside the beautifully preserved building there are 18 studios that visitors can step inside to watch the artists at work, as well as purchasing their collections of textiles, jewellery, ceramics and prints.
Insiders Tip: Keep your eyes open for upcoming exhibitions in the centre, and don’t miss the delicious market salad plates in the café.
Richard Goodall Gallery
Again, located in the Northern Quarter, the Richard Goodall Gallery offers a wide range of contemporary prints for your home. Inside the store, you’ll discover a comprehensive collection of limited edition music and film posters, alongside contemporary art prints including highly covetable Leonard Cohen signed prints.
Cafes and Bars
Nexus Art Café
If you’re looking for a creative space to relax and enjoy a light lunch, head to Nexus Art Café for a sandwich, soup and a soft drink. This not-for-profit arts venue showcases the work of local creatives alongside regular exhibitions and gigs hosted in the evenings.
One of the Northern Quarter’s hippest bars, Kosmonaut is known for its delicious food menu, strong cocktails and late nights. It’s also a creative hub, showcasing a variety of intriguing exhibitions, art events, magazine launches, knitting parties and contemporary pop culture quizzes.
Insider’s Tip: Sign up to their membership scheme for ten percent off all drinks during the week and to receive updates about upcoming events.
Twenty Twenty Two
Another Northern Quarter favourite late-night venue, Twenty Twenty Two is the place to go if you like to play ping-pong (there’s an entire room dedicated to the sport). It also occasionally hosts local contemporary art exhibitions, so keep an eye out on their events page.