200 Years of Manchester Art Gallery

From October 2023 we’re exploring 200 years of art in the city of Manchester.

In October 1823 a group of artists and patrons rethought what ‘art’ meant in the context of the city of Manchester. Recognising the benefits art and artistic endeavour would bring to their modern, industrialising city, they made their vision a reality and the Royal Manchester Institution came into being. By 1835 the RMI had become bricks and mortar on Mosley Street.

This was not ‘art for all’ as we understand it today. It was elitist and prejudicial in its inception. It was a white space and a male space. The echoes of these historic exclusions continue to be felt in the collection today, which we recognise lacks artistic representation of women, Global Majority and LGBTQ+ artists and subjects, among others.

Ideas, however, transform and grow. In 1883 the building on Mosley Street opened to the public, free of charge under the kind patronage and guidance of the Corporation of Manchester. The collection was now not only for the people, but of the people, held in trust and in perpetuity.

As the population of Manchester has changed so have the ideas of what we collect, what we value, and who gets to make those decisions. Today, with the privilege of hindsight, we reflect on the power of art to change us, empower us and spark creative joy. Working with the city’s diverse, global, population, we can reimagine what ‘art for all’ could be for the next 200 years of Manchester Art Gallery, as we collect, engage and care together, for the future.

Over the next year we’ll be exploring the idea of an ‘arts ecology’ in the city of Manchester past, present and future. Each month we will be creating blogs and hosting events to mark our historic milestone. Coinciding with our Taking Stock project, this anniversary is a moment to come together through our shared history and to see the world in new ways through creativity.

October 2023

The Three Amigos

Two hundred years ago this month, the idea for what became the Royal Manchester Institution, and later the Manchester Art Gallery, came into being. It was sparked off by three friends on a day out.

Read here

December 2023

What should museums be collecting for future generations?

Enjoy art and explore life’s big questions

Find out more

January – February – March 2024

200 Years of MAG Tour

Join Patrick, a member of our Visitor Engagement Team, who will lead you on a gallery tour, uncovering the origins and early history of the Royal Manchester Institution.

See all dates here

April 2024

Creative Families 200 Years

Free, creative making sessions for families during Easter holidays. Join our artists team in celebrating 200 years of Manchester Art Gallery.

See all dates here

May 2024

Collaboration with Castlefield Gallery

A joint public programme exploring the arts ecology of the city, unpacking the critical role and value of artists to a city like Manchester ‘then and now’.

Find out more

April 2024

Tour of Platt Hall

Join the team at Platt Hall and explore how this building has been part of the Gallery for nearly 100 years, see more of the dress collection and find out about the current transformation of the Hall.

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June 2024

Platt Hall Illustrated Talk

Join us for an illustrated talk about the little-known history of Manchester’s neighbourhood branches

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June 2024

Illuminating interior

Join curator Jenny McKellar who will discuss rare remnants of a painted and gilded Modern Gothic panelled room.

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July 2024

Tour of Platt Hall

Join the team at Platt Hall and explore how this building has been part of the Gallery for nearly 100 years, see more of the dress collection and find out about the current transformation of the Hall.

Find out more

July 2024

Out of the Crate: Investigating the sculpture collection

Join curator Rebecca Milner shares stories of lost and misattributed artworks, forgotten artists and mystery acquisitions in this talk about the ‘Cold Case’ sculptures featured in Out of the Crate.

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September 2024

Illuminating interior

Join curator Jenny McKellar who will discuss rare remnants of a painted and gilded Modern Gothic panelled room.

Find out more

October 2024

Old Manchester: Nostalgia in a time of change.

Meet the Old Manchester project team and learn about an intriguing part of the gallery’s collection.

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November 2024

Curator Talk: Earl Egerton

Curator Janet Boston shares the difficult histories of the beautifully crafted Asian arms and armour collection at Manchester Art Gallery.

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