Since visiting Hong Kong last year I’ve been slowly trying to clear out the numerous photos on my phone to free up some space. In the process I noted the many different events and exhibitions I have attended. It became clear that Manchester Art Gallery had steadily become one of my favorite venues in the past 12 months.
A small selection of the excellent exhibitions and events in 2014:
Joana Vasconcelos: Time Machine // Ryan Gander // Thursday Lates with Bee Raphaelite honey, River of Flowers, Moss Cider and wildflower seeds from Seedball // Dress of Glass and Flame by Prof Helen Storey (as part of Manchester Science Festival and Design Manchester 14)
The gallery’s city centre location has always been so convenient and I’ve always felt more upbeat even on short visits. With this in mind I decided to become a Friend of Manchester Art Gallery at the start of this year. The timing worked out well as a welcome tour for members took place earlier this month and we were introduced to some of their key artworks.
We started with Filter (2002) by Antony Gormley that hangs from a single rod from the atrium ceiling. This glass atrium is the link between the original Greek style building designed by Sir Charles Barry and the Athenaeum (a gentlemen’s club built in the 1830’s), and was created after the gallery’s four-year £35 million refurbishment in 2002.
Over the years I have gotten used to seeing this piece but never knew anything about it or questioned the reasons for its unique location within the building. Often too busy using the stairs or going into another exhibition, I missed this metal sculpture as he rotated in the space above my head in response to sounds and movements within the atrium space.
In this video Gormley provided a commentary to Filter during its launch in 2009. Photos from The Guardian also documented the two abseilers and several metres of steel cable used for the Fitting of Filter.
Another artwork we looked at was The Sirens and Ulysses (1837) by William Etty. A masterpiece that measures approximately 3 x 4.5 meters and is one of the largest paintings in the gallery. Due to the artist’s choice of material the piece started to deteriorate soon after it was completed. Even during Etty’s lifetime he had to rescue his work when it became damaged – often during transit. After not being seen by the public for over 120 years, sufficient funding was secured to allow the gallery to begin conservation work on it offsite in 2004. In early 2006 the painting was moved back to the gallery so the work could be continued in full view of the public. The difficulties of conserving a painting without overworking it was highlighted to us. Full restoration was finally completed in 2009.
Again, the Gallery documented this painstaking process in an excellent video:
Restoration of William Etty’s Salvaged: Stages 1 – 4
It was insightful to see how passionate a few of the Friends were about being able to see certain paintings. While I visit frequently, I’ve yet to develop this strong attachment to particular pieces. I enjoy the visual variety on offer, while others look out for paintings that provide sentimental value. It was curious to discover their strong expectations and understand a different visitor mindset.
A quick thank you to Debbie Leftwich for taking us around this very rewarding tour. Although this particular Welcome Tour was exclusive to Friends, the Gallery also offer highlight tours free of charge to all visitors. Many of these take place during the weekends, with full details on the Manchester Art Gallery’s What’s On webpage.
Enjoy your next visit and perhaps you’ll also consider becoming a Friend or Patron to help support the lovely work that they do!