What is Manchester Art Gallery?

August 20, 2020  -  December 31, 2024

Free Admission

And what does it mean to you?

Every Object and Person has stories to tell.

In the first of our gallery spaces to be completely transformed since they were first hung in 2002, we are exploring the gallery itself. Manchester Art Gallery cares for a public collection of over 46,000 objects spanning six centuries of fine art, craft and design, costume and more. It has been collected by purchase, gift and bequest since 1827 up to the present day. It is part of Manchester City Council and funded through public and private money. The objects are collectively owned by the people of Manchester.

Manchester Art Gallery has been shaped by people: the public, artists, politicians, curators, staff, collectors, benefactors and visitors. Every object acquires different values, status and meanings over time. Every object and person has stories to tell.

The significance of a public collection is more than the accumulation of individual objects. Its core purpose is to encourage curiosity in everyone and inspire creativity in all aspects of life. Using the collection helps us better understand ourselves and others. The Gallery is part of the collective cultural soul of our city and it holds Manchester’s cultural wealth in trust for future generations.

A group of staff from across the Gallery have delved into the archives to select objects that reflect its origins as the Royal Manchester Institution, its subsequent history and a range of art and design. We have mixed up works from different times, made in a variety of materials by artists and makers from Manchester and across the world.

What is the point of a public art gallery?

We have been asking ourselves the questions below about the gallery, we don’t know all the answers and we invite you to think about them too.

What is Manchester Art Gallery?

How and why did it begin?

What is the point of a public art gallery?

What are all the objects and how did they get here?

Where did and does the money come from?

What relates to Manchester and its people?

How do we decide what to collect?

What can we do with it now?

Conversations with gallery staff, volunteers and freelancers. Filmed during lockdown 2020 over Zoom.

Art Unlocked: Art UK and Manchester Art Gallery. Talk by Hannah Williamson, curator of fine art. Recorded 19 October 2022

Each month people gather at Platt Hall as part of the Platt Hall Inbetween project to have a conversation about two objects at the Hall.

Illustrator, Laurie Pink, joins the conversations and draws what is said and exchanged. His illustrations capture the energy of the conversations which touch on personal memories and present day connections.

In November 2022, the conversation focussed on the miniature and dolls house chairs, given by Mary Greg to Platt Hall in 1922.  One of the chairs is now on display in the exhibition ‘What is Manchester Art Gallery?’ Accession number: 1922.470 

Platt Hall, part of Manchester Art Gallery is going through a transition from being the Gallery of Costume. The changes are being developed in partnership with gallery staff and local residents, connecting everyday creativity, collections and people’s lives


To see more of Laurie’s work, follow him on Instagram @lauriepink

A drawing of chairs and some comments about chairs by Laurie Pink
A drawing of chairs and some comments about chairs by Laurie Pink Illustration of a conversation about chairs by Laurie Pink, as part of Platt Hall Collection Chats Nov 2022
Illustration of the conversation about a miniature chair, 1922.470, by Laurie Pink, November 2022
Illustration of the conversation about a miniature chair by Laurie Pink, November 2022

You can download a large print version of the artwork’s label here.