Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

Re-opening on Saturday 14th February, the Whitworth Art Gallery has undergone a £15 million redevelopment scheme which has doubled its size and opened new exhibition spaces, this includes a huge emphasis on its neighbouring park.

Taking an afternoon off from my third year work, I took the time to explore the new spaces this gallery has to offer and take in some of the contemporary art it is currently exhibiting.

Here are some of my photographs of the new spaces…

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I have been particularly interested in the materiality of the spaces which is what I have taken the most photographs of. I have done this because of the extensive redevelopment programme the gallery has undergone, and at the moment I am looking more closely at the materials I would like to use in my scheme. The selection of materials is quite extensive, however I think they all fit in particularly well with even the older parts of the gallery which can sometimes be extremely difficult to execute well, and with my project having an old building as well I think it was important to see how this worked well.

Whilst walking through the gallery, I noticed the different floor finishes which were used and on most occasions the finish wasn’t put together as accurately as I would have liked – you can feel the change in material and slight rise or fall in its height. This could be because of the different thickness in material – stone to wood, for example – however there could have been more care and attention to detail on this.

Something I picked up quite quickly, was the doors between the exhibitions. Floor to ceiling, large and heavy wooden sliding (and normal) doors. On first glance, you would assume they are there to add more complexity to the materials palette, but actually it enables the gallery to shut off various spaces, successfully, should there be something new being put up or taken down. In addition to their practicality, they fit in extremely well with all of the spaces – whether that be white walls or brick and wood.

The selection of contemporary art within the Whitworth Gallery is fantastic, which I was quite surprised at. Here are some of my photographs of my favourite pieces …

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The above piece by Cai Guo-Qiang, Unmanned Nature, is made from gunpowder which I have never before heard as being used as a medium in art before. I was completely amazed when I stepped into the exhibition. With a pool of water in the centre to reflect the work from all angles, it was easy to see the inspiration for the piece from the First World War. The artist has successfully immersed its viewers to experience the human sensations after the War.

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My most favourite piece in the Whitworth Art Gallery is definitely the room lined with Poppy stencils. This piece shows me that such a simple idea can have a huge impact on its audience.

With that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Gallery, especially now it has reopened. I do think the material choices reflect both the new and old areas of the gallery, however the execution of some areas could have been a lot better.


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