As part of The Whitworth Art Gallery’s renovation MUMA architects have built two new wings that include a café, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking trees and parkland, a learning studio, new stores and collection rooms and a landscape gallery.
MUMA architects have built two new wings to transform the gallery. Photograph by Alan Williams
M+H Advisor was invited along to a press day earlier this week where we filmed interviews with Director Maria Balshaw, architect Stuart Mcknight, artist Cornelia Parker and curator Bryony Bond, and will be posting a video, along with an in-depth report, on our website later this month.
We were given a tour of the new space by the inspirational Balshaw, who became director of the Whitworth in 2006, and has been instrumental in securing the funds and having the vison to make the transformation happen.
Whitworth Director Maria Balshaw in the main gallery, which is now visible from the park. Photograph by Adrian Murphy
We were extremely impressed with the new additions, with stylish stone flooring, vistas on to the park and the fantastic landscape gallery.
Part of the build has seen a new collections centre and store rooms in the basement of the building, which are connected through a promenade to a study centre and a learning studio. The collections were previously stored on the first floor and their relocation has opened up a grand hall there, which will now be used as a mixed-use venue for recitals and events.
Of course one of the wow factors of the refurbishment is the addition of a transparent shipping container-like café/restaurant (above the learning studio) that allows visitors to enjoy elevated and panoramic views of Whitworth Park.
The new cafe adds the "wow" factor with views of Whitworth Park. By Adrian Murphy
Part of the University of Manchester, The Whitworth, established in 1889, and is now a more welcoming and functional gallery, with a strong ethos on education and learning and better connections with its local community.
“What we wanted was to become a cultural hub for our neighbourhood, a social space,” said Balshaw.
“Between the two new wings we capture a piece of the park and have created an art garden.
“You can now start seeing art before come into the gallery and the whole space becomes part of the environment and is a more accessible experience.”
There are ten new exhibitions running concurrently as part of the reopening with works from British Artist Cornilia Parker including – unique to the Whitworth – War Room, made from punched out paper negatives from the Poppy Factory in Richmond.
Cornelia Parker's Cold Dark Matter An Exploded View (1991). Photograph by Hugo Glendinning
In the landscape gallery Chinese Artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s installation Unmanned Nature (2008) a 45m long, 4m high gunpowder drawing fits perfectly into the new space and is the first time the work has been shown outside of Japan where it was first exhibited in Hiroshima City Museum.
There are also exhibitions from Sarah Lucas, Johnnie Shand Kydd, Thomas Schütte, as well as a new acquisitions exhibition and from the Whitworth’s own collection portraits, watercolours and 1960s exhibits.
As part of the reopening celebrations a weekend of activities will take place from 11am Saturday with architect, artist and curator talks, an outdoor art walk and art picnic, poetry recitals, learning gallery talk, a fire performance by the Whitworth Young Contemporaries and the Hallé Youth Choir performing songs inspired by William Blake’s poems in the new Art Garden.