And what does it mean to you?
Manchester Art Gallery
Thursday 20 August 2020–Sunday 26 December 2021
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.
Breathing is Free: 12,756.3
This film is part of a work produced by the Japanese/Vietnamese/American artist Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba. The other element of this work, a photographic print Manchester Ferns, is on display in What is Manchester Art Gallery? In 2007 the artist Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba began a mammoth project entitled Breathing is Free: 12,756.3, when his intention was to undertake a series of runs in different countries around the world that would build up to 12,756.3 km, the diameter of the earth. The project was designed to highlight the plight of refugees and displaced people – those who, in his words, must “run or perish.” Jun asked the question “How come when breathing is free for everyone else, we (refugees) must go on the run to grab some air?”
Jun came to Manchester in December 2007 and planned a 92.6 km run around the North and East of the city, taking in busy streets, semi-industrial areas and criss-crossing the canals. He planned a route via GPS which would create a fern shape when plotted onto an aerial map and documented his run on film. He chooses different flora and fauna for each place he runs, for example a cherry blossom ‘route’ was developed in Tokyo. He chose the fern for Manchester as he saw a connection between the plant’s vascular system, that transports water, sugar and nutrients around to help the plant grow, and the growth of our city socially and economically around the infrastructure of canals during the industrial revolution.
The film and print capture a specific moment in the history of the city as investment and development activity was building momentum to expand the city further eastward. Many of the places captured in the film and print may look very different today.
Fiona Corridan | Curator: Art and Design
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?
Get involved : People’s Choice
Over the coming months and years, we are working to re-imagine gallery displays. We will work openly and collectively to do interesting things with the collection.
Many of the works on display have traditionally been chosen by our curators. We have also worked with schools, community groups and artists to select items to display from the vast collection of objects we have in store.
What would you choose and why?
This new space is a great opportunity for the people of Manchester. It is not just about the history of the institution, the gallery and its collections, but of how it is used and by whom. That’s where you come in. This is not just an art gallery; this is a public art gallery. The people of Manchester own its works. This is your collection.
Nominate an art work to display as part of the new re-displays. We want to know what art works mean something to you. Is there an art work that has a personal meaning? What kind of response do you have to it? Maybe there is something that hasn’t been on display for a while that you miss and would like to see back on show. Tell us why!
You may not know a specific art work but would like to be part of the re-imagining the galleries conversations.
You can let us know by filling out the form below, or look through our collection for inspiration.
James Northcote Ira Aldridge as Othello, The Moor of Venice 1826
Henry Edward Tidmarsh Interior View of the Art Gallery 1894
Lesley Young Azar And Regina Waiting On The 10th Floor, Ancoats, No.1 1987
George Stubbs A Cheetah And A Stag With Two Indian Attendants 1865
Ikuko Iwamoto Spiky Spiky Bowl 2015
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament T-Shirt 1982-3