Investigating the Sculpture Collection at Manchester Art Gallery.
Manchester Art Gallery
Thursday 7 November 2019–Sunday 28 November 2021
Come and look behind the scenes of Manchester’s publicly owned sculpture collection. Part exhibition, part research space, Out of the Crate delves into the un-tapped history of the collection. This is an opportunity to investigate sculpture through access to stored collections and archival material. With works spread across three rooms, you’ll be able to find out what’s in store and how we look after it, help unlock hidden stories about works we know very little about, and explore how artworks might encourage conversation.
We have about 500 sculptures from antiquity to the present day and, until now, less than 3% were on display. As well as modern and contemporary works, there are 19th century sculptures and works from earlier periods that have rarely been seen this century and are under-researched.
On display are a large range of materials including marble, bronze, wood, glass, ceramic and paper, a variety of sizes and shapes and different techniques of making. From bronze medals decorated with reliefs to large-scale free-standing 3D works, you can now see 25% of the sculpture collection here.
Room 1: What’s in Store?
Here around 60 sculptures are presented as if in a gallery store room, giving an insight into what it’s like behind the scenes. Objects are displayed on racks, in cupboards, on pallets and in open crates and grouped as they would be in a store, according to size and/or material and weight, rather than guided by themes or chronology as in a conventional gallery display. This room reveals the challenges of storing and looking after sculpture and gives an overview of the scope and condition of the collection.
Room 2: Cold Cases
This room showcases a changing selection of 10-15 sculptures under investigation. These are artworks about which we have little information, are in poor condition or have been off display for a long time and would benefit from new research. The aim is to open up this research process more publicly and consider how a public gallery and its users can care for and use collections.
Room 3: It’s Good to Talk
Curated by the Making Conversation group
Making Conversation is a group of people from all walks of life who take part in monthly workshops with artists and gallery staff. Workshops use talking and making around art objects to share and discuss contemporary ideas, concerns or issues. They are open to everyone and are planned with blind and partially sighted people in mind.
We wanted to find out whether we could promote this level of conversation in a gallery space every day and we’ve selected sculptures to experiment with how a gallery can best be used to make conversation possible. We’ve also thought about the physical nature of the space itself and how much interpretation we should include.
Susie MacMurray Widow 2009, detail