Whether browsing, buying or getting your art geek on - here's our guide to the best galleries in Manchester city centre
Back in 2015, and in 2019, we did a roundup of the city centre's top indie art galleries. That was a long time ago now, so we thought we’d give it a little update and remind you what a thriving art scene Manchester really has.
Luckily, a lot of our previous entries are alive and kicking, with great art in even better buildings still thriving within the city centre. However, in the spirit of a new season and an ever-changing scene, it only seems right to zhuzh things up a bit and include some newbies. You're welcome short fringe sporters and tote bag carriers.
With artsy events and cultural milestones constantly being embraced by Manchester's varied venues, we've also made a year-long cultural calendar to help you keep up with the cool stuff. If you're after some art for your own permanent collection, there are spots where you can purchase some creations in this list too.
So without further ado, here’s our revised guide to getting your arts and culture on in Manchester city centre.
Lurking as it does behind Deansgate Station, it’s easy to miss this quirky platform for emerging artists, but it's worth seeking out. The primary emphasis at Castlefield Gallery is niche projects that have international relevance, exploring topics such as the role of art in society and social media through collaborations with local organisations like Madlab. A fully-registered charity, it's also has a member's scheme. Previous exhibitions at Castlefield Gallery have included contemporary works by Manchester-based artist Kelly Jayne Jones and CYBERJUNK by John Powell-Jones.
, 2 Hewitt Street, M15 4GB
CFCCA is the UK leader in Chinese visual culture, with a reputation for debut solo exhibitions and a roster of internationally-renowned artists; impressive considering that, three decades ago, it was just a series of events in Manchester’s Chinatown. As Manchester’s Chinese population is second only to London’s, the centre’s heritage is particularly important and is now represented in an archive and library. The CFCCA also do film screenings, Thursday Lates events and Mandarin lessons. This gallery is temporarily closed, but doors are due to open again soon.
Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Market Buildings, 13 Thomas Street, M4 1EU
From Darrell Evanes’ scrap metal sculpture to Matthew Bourne’s natural abstracts, Contemporary Six’s repertoire is all-encompassing. Having outgrown its former location in the Royal Exchange Arcade, the gallery - founded by Alex Reuben in 2010 - now occupies an airy space on Princess Street, where it represents around 40 artists. Open every day from Tuesday to Saturday, Contemporary Six also offers an Own Art scheme, which allows buyers to pay monthly for any art that they choose to purchase. The gallery covers everything from modern prints to sculpture and ceramics, so there's a bit of something for everyone.
Contemporary Six, 37 Princess Street, M2 4FN
Like Contemporary Six, Generation also offers the Own Art scheme. Artworks range from under £100, to a whopping £49,000, with bestsellers including Kerry Darlington’s resin creations and JJ Adams’ subversive celebrity depictions. Whether you’re a serious collector, or simply after a quirky piece for your home, you’d do well to beat it. Generation Gallery hosts regular "meet the artist" events and the spot is open to the public Tuesday - Saturday with visits made by appointment only on Sundays and Mondays. If you're a bit confused by this gallery's location, it's just below City Tower.
Generation Gallery, New York Street, M1 4BD
Open Monday - Friday from 12 noon 'til 6, Holden Gallery is a free space run by Manchester Metropolitan University. Situated smack bang in the middle of Manchester School of Art, and housed in the original building which was built in 1880, the space has remained an exhibition space since its initial purpose as the Textile Court. The exhibitions at Holden focus on contemporary visual art with some current examples including immersive wall paintings, work from recent architecture graduates, and a live catwalk.
The Holden Gallery, Grosvenor Building, Metropolitan University, Cavendish St, Manchester M15 6BR
Encompassing three cinemas, contemporary visual arts and a comprehensive bookshop over three floors, Cornerhouse stood as Manchester’s artistic icon for 30 years. The Library Theatre Company had an equally formidable reputation, providing audiences with a potent mix of contemporary drama and modern classics for yet twice as long. As a £25m merger of the two, therefore, HOME had a lot to live up to upon opening in 2015 but has proven itself up to the task across two theatres, five cinemas and extensive gallery space. HOME is now home (sorry) to regular annual events like the North West Graduate Art Prize and the works on display are ever-evolving to bring you a diverse and exciting arts hub in the centre of town.
HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, M15 4FN
Another one that's just over the borders of Salford, Islington Mill is based in an old cotton spinning mill. One of those ever-evolving arts spaces and community hubs, there are more than 50 businesses and 100 artists based at the site, which occasionally hosts events spotlighting the city’s up-and-coming art talent. This spot is currently undergoing some renovations that are meant to be finished by the end of 2022, and its art academy is free, peer-led, and open to anyone with a creative passion. Where there's a mill, there's a way.
Islington Mill, James Street, Salford M3 5HW
Ok, we know it's just across the border into Salford, but it would be a travesty not to include this landmark North West venue. His ‘naive’ manner of painting may have initially attracted controversy but Laurence Stephen Lowry’s paintings are now a ‘Mod Brit’ market leader. Despite him famously rejecting a knighthood in 1968, that didn’t stop a theatre and gallery complex opening in his name 32 years later, now one of the region's biggest attractions. It's seen as a proper multi-purpose venue for Manchester and houses over 400 of the painter's original works as well as changing exhibitions that include everything from landscape paintings to photography.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ
Home to over nineteen artisans, MCDC spans textiles to prints, sculpture to jewellery and more. The studio element means you can often see designers at work and learn about the processes behind their individual practices, whilst the organisation’s support programme showcases a wealth of established and emerging local talent. The building (a Victorian former fish market) is an interesting space with great high ceilings and loads of light, making for a great viewing experience. If you're into learning some new artsy skills yourself, you can take part in a variety of workshops at this Oak Street spot throughout the year.
Manchester Craft and Design Centre, 17 Oak Street, M4 5JD
Whilst it may not boast the beautiful parkland of its Whitworth partner, this Mosley Street gem nonetheless has plenty to offer: not least a world-class art collection, and everything from highlights tours to mindful drawing. MAG also boasts a six-century costume gallery in nearby Rusholme: housed in an elegant Georgian manor in Platt Fields Park, it's the largest of its kind in Britain. Whether you're into fine art, costume and design or crafting, this gallery's permanent collection has got it all and then some.
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, M2 3JL
The Saul Hay Gallery is well and truly keeping Castlefield cool with its collections of paintings, sculptures, drawings, photography and mixed media - all made by emerging and established artists. A real indie and diverse affair, the Saul Hay base is a beauty with canal side views and original features. Almost all of the works on display at Saul Hay are available to purchase too, so your home can quickly turn into a space for watercolour scenery and local ceramics (the dream).
Saul Hay Gallery, Railway Cottage, Behind Bass Warehouse, Castle Street, Manchester M3 4LZ
Over the past 125+ years, the Whitworth has seen many transformations, resulting in accolades such as RIBA National Award and Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2015. Now home to an internationally important collection numbering 60,000 works - blending high-profile names like Blake, Spencer, Rembrandt and Moore with fresh new talent - the gallery’s principal aim remains the same: ‘the perpetual gratification of the people of Manchester'. The Whitworth is also a great place for a wander with its beautiful grounds, and with everything from textiles to wallpaper and sculpture to prints, it's a one-stop-shop for a load of cool creative stuff.
The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, M15 6ER
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