Whether browsing, buying or getting cultural - our guide to getting your art on
Back in 2015, we did a roundup of the city’s top central indie art galleries. That was a long time ago…so we thought we’d give it a little update and remind you what a thriving art scene Manchester really has.
Hearteningly, while a couple have moved, all but one of the included galleries is still open: Richard Goodall Gallery, which had two Northern Quarter sites, closed its Thomas Street branch this month due to rising rents - a fate that continues to befall independent businesses - while its High Street venue made way for the Cat Café in 2016.
More positively, venues opened since - including Saul Hay Gallery, DeLacey Fine Art, Baiba Auria’s Egoiste Gallery and pop-ups like The Cape (ran by her Afflecks’ neighbours Northern Quarter Gallery) - show there’s an enthusiastic market for local artistic talent. And stalwarts like Manchester Art Fair and Manchester Print Fair continue to attract growing audiences.
So without further ado, here’s our revised guide to getting your art on in Manchester city centre.
FOR BUYING AND BROWSING…
From ‘new urbanist’ Tim Garner to the polychromatic pop pieces of Chris Acheson, ARTZU may be small but it’s full of surprises. Now in its second decade, with a sister company providing consultancy across the UK and Gulf, the longstanding gallery is keen to dispel the myth that outstanding original art can’t be affordable. ARTZU is currently in the process of moving further up Quay Street, to make way for the St John’s development, but you can still check out the artworks online and arrange an appointment.
Best feature: The diversity, from ethereal impasto figures to arresting sculpture and whimsical oils
(on the move)
From Darrell Evanes’ scrap metal sculpture to Matthew Bourne’s natural abstracts, Contemporary Six’s repertoire is all encompassing. Having outgrown its former location of Royal Exchange Arcade, the gallery - founded by Alex Reuben in 2010 - now occupies an airy space on Princess Street, where it represents around 40 artists.
Best feature: Contemporary Six offers the Own Art Scheme, which allows buyers to pay in monthly instalments
Contemporary Six, 37 Princess Street, M2 4FN
Like Contemporary Six, Generation also offers the Own Art scheme. Artworks range from under £100, to a whopping £49,000, with bestsellers including Kerry Darlington’s fantastical resin creations and JJ Adams’ subversive celebrity depictions. Whether you’re a serious collector, or simply after a quirky piece for your home, you’d do well do beat it.
Best feature: Modern British pieces with added pizzazz
Generation Gallery, New York Street, M1 4BD
MANCHESTER CRAFT AND DESIGN CENTRE
Home to over nineteen artisans, MCDC spans textiles to prints, sculpture to jewellery and more besides. The studio element means you can often see designers at work and learn more about the process behind their practise, while the organisation’s support programme showcases a wealth of established and emerging local talent. The building (a Victorian former fish market) is interesting too. Also check nearby Kula Gallery, opened by one of its residents.
Best feature: Shop then drop...in at Oak Street Cafe for artisanal goodies of the appetising kind
Manchester Craft and Design Centre, 17 Oak Street, M4 5JD
Lurking as it does behind Deansgate Station, it’s easy to miss this quirky platform for emerging artists but it's worth seeking out. The primary emphasis at Castlefield Gallery is niche projects that have international relevance, exploring topics such as the role of art in society through collaborations with local organisations like Madlab. A registered charity, it also has a members’ scheme.
Best feature: Similarly to International 3, the gallery offers artist development and a radical events programme
, 2 Hewitt Street, M15 4GB
CENTRE FOR CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART
CFCCA is the UK leader in Chinese visual culture, with a reputation for debut solo exhibitions and a roster of internationally-renowned artists; impressive considering that, three decades ago, it was just a series of events in Manchester’s Chinatown. As Manchester’s Chinese population is second only to London’s, the centre’s heritage is particularly important; now represented in a new archive and library.
Best feature: A vibrant events schedule, spanning film screenings to workshops and even Mandarin lessons
Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Market Buildings, 13 Thomas Street, M4 1EU
Encompassing three cinemas, contemporary visual arts and a comprehensive bookshop over three floors, Cornerhouse stood as Manchester’s artistic icon for 30 years. The Library Theatre Company had an equally formidable reputation, providing audiences with a potent mix of contemporary drama and modern classics for yet twice as long. As a £25m merger of the two, therefore, HOME had a lot to live up to on opening in 2015 but has proven itself up to the task across two theatres, five cinemas and extensive gallery space.
Best feature: As well as being a leading arts venue, HOME also has three great dining spots and a bookshop
HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, M15 4FN
MANCHESTER ART GALLERY
Whilst it may not boast the beautiful parkland of its Whitworth partner, this Mosley Street gem nonetheless has plenty to offer: not least a world-class art collection, and everything from highlights tours to mindful drawing. Visiting with children? Make sure to visit the onsite café, which has a pay-as-you-feel kids’ menu in partnership with Real Junk Food Manchester. MAG also boasts a six-century costume gallery in nearby Rusholme: housed in an elegant Georgian manor in Platt Fields Park, it's the largest of its kind in Britain (though temporarily closed due to a plague of moths).
Best feature: An outstanding collection of Pre-Raphaelite works and decorative arts
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, M2 3JL
Ok we know it's just across the border into Salford, but it would be a travesty not to include this landmark North West venue. His ‘naive’ manner of painting may have initially attracted controversy but Laurence Stephen Lowry’s paintings are now a ‘Mod Brit’ market leader. Despite him famously rejecting a knighthood in 1968, that didn’t stop a theatre and gallery complex opening in his name 32 years later, now one of the region's biggest attractions.
Best feature: Over 400 Lowry works, housed in a dynamic multi-purpose venue
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ
Over the past 125+ years, the Whitworth has seen many transformations but none so much as its recent £15 million development, resulting in accolades such as RIBA National Award and Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2015. Now home to an internationally important collection numbering 60,000 works - blending high-profile names like Blake, Spencer, Rembrandt and Moore with fresh new talent - the gallery’s principal aim remains the same: ‘the perpetual gratification of the people of Manchester’. Indeed.
Best feature: Events to suit all ages, and a scenic parkland setting
The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, M15 6ER