Last weekend myself & Mr B went to Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. It’s a gallery I have visited many times as it is home to a vast collection of surface prints, fabrics & wallpapers, many of which were produced in the mills in and around Manchester during the height of the industrial revolution. I was very privileged to spend time in the archives, which are by appointment only, when I was studying for my degree in interior design, assisted and aided by, the then, textiles & wallpaper curator, whose knowledge on the subject was so valuable to me. The Whitworth are very supportive of students and have fantastic research support. One of the subjects I researched as a student was wallpapers designed by artists, of which the Whitworth have many and one designed by Sarah Lucas can be seen there currently as part of her exhibition.
So it was last year as my mum lay recovering in Manchester eye hospital, adjacent to the museum, after a long operation, that I took a break and wandered around the familiar galleries, where I came across architects plans for the design of the new extension to the museum. The glass extension appeared to sour through the trees that surround the gallery, in the park below, and, on plan, looked impressive. When we finally visited, last Saturday, we were not disappointed. The gallery sits within the grounds of Whitworth park, the first gallery at the time it was built, ever to be situated in a park, and the outdoors has truly been brought in by the clever design of the architects. The second storey, housing the museum cafe, sits within the tree tops and makes the most of the view of the surrounding Victorian landscape of Manchester’s Oxford Road.
Other areas of the new extension blend perfectly with the original Victorian facade, which has been brought into what is now the new interior of the gallery and further enhances the original building, drawing your eyes to the bowed windows & red brick.
Current exhibitions include work by Sarah Lucas, Cornelia Parker and Cai Guo-Qiang but I particularly enjoyed the black & white photography exhibition by Johnnie Shand Kydd taken over a weekend on the Greek island of Hydra, capturing the hip & beautiful, movers and shakers of the fashion & design world. A fascinating insight into the jet set lifestyle and captured on an island I have long wanted to visit. Other interesting works are a collection of portraits by various artists such as this Francis Bacon work of his friend Lucien Freud.
Tracey Emin in holiday mode by Johnnie Shand Kydd
The gallery gift shop sells a wide selection of books based on the collections and current exhibitions, together with some wonderful interior objects, stationary and even bottles of own label Whitworth Gallery ale, in short something for everyone.