From La Movida to The Art of Dying, here's our pick of Manchester's best exhibitions over the next two months

GALT, GAMES & GARLAND | Central Library | 4 April - 31 May

Now over 180 years old, Galt has garnered worldwide renown, but the iconic toy brand actually hails from Manchester. This exhibition, organised by Manchester Modernist City, focuses on Ken Garland Associates’ rebrand of Galt during the sixties and seventies. Bright colours, genderless illustrations, clean yet playful graphics and a clever use of symmetry can be seen through more than 60 examples; illustrating how the company revolutionised the marketing of play using modernist principles.

Central Library, St Peter's Square, M2 5PD (10am-5pm; free). 

THE LIFE OF OBJECTS | John Rylands Library | Until 27 August

Talking of dynamic marketing, John Rylands’ latest exhibition microsite is a beauty. Detailing a selection of curious objects, each with their own distinctive story, it spans work to friendship to birth and death. From horse bone portraits of an eighteenth century preacher to the pattern for a Shanghai sleeper, the repertoire is as diverse as it’s intriguing and demonstrates that library collections aren’t always confined to the written word. The physical collection can be viewed in Rylands’ exhibition space.

John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, M3 3EH (Tues-Sat 12-5pm, Sun-Mon 10am-5pm; free).  

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Horse bone portraits in The Life of Objects

THE ART OF DYING | The Whitworth | Thursday 11 May

To mark Dying Awareness Week (yes, there is such a thing), Greater Manchester and East Cheshire SCNs - part of NHS - is hosting a day of death. But don’t expect this to be a morbid event: also a celebration of life, the unconventional exhibition and event includes everything from Day of the Dead Mexican cookies to memory box making, mindfulness to film screenings and printmaking. There will also be a gallery of artwork from across the local community. The premise? Death affects us all, so facing up to it as positively as possible can only be a good thing. 

The Whitworth, Oxford Road, M15 6ER (various times; free, registration required at

LA MOVIDA | HOME | 14 April - 17 July

Following on from ¡Viva! Spanish & Latin American Festival, La Movida (‘the movement’) encapsulates the period of artistic freedom following Franco’s dictatorship. Excess, clubbing, drugs, uncensored creativity, gay rights, pornography and more all collided in an outpouring of freedom from suppression and a desire for making up on lost time in early eighties’ Madrid. The exhibition is accompanied by Dark Habits, a Cornerhouse publication - named for Pedro Almodóvar’s cult film - which explores this hedonistic era through the contributions of nineteen field experts.

HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, M15 4FN (Tues-Sat 12-8pm, Sun 12-6pm; free). 

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Alaska Bruce LaBruce

MADE IN TRANSLATION | The Portico Library | 27 April - 3 June

Made in Translation sees craft practitioners and researchers respond to iconic texts through new writing, objects, performance and photography. From Captain Cook's travels, to the Shaker movement, hot air ballooning and fern collecting, The Portico Library was a rich source of inspiration for the showcase; produced in collaboration with MMU. Made in Translation is followed by Cut Cloth (10 June-8 July), which reflects on Manchester’s textile legacy through a contemporary feminist lens.

The Portico Library, 57 Mosley Street, M2 3FF (various times; free). 

SKETCH N THE CITY | Central Library | 4 May - December

Imagine Manchester - as far north as Manchester Piccadilly station, as far east as Oxford road, as far south as Mancunian Way and as far west as MediaCity - every backstreet alley, every rivulet of the River Irwell, every edifice big or small rendered painstakingly in pencil. That’s exactly what you’ll find at Central Library until December, courtesy of artist Sketch, who is on a mission to create large-scale drawings of all 69 UK cities. The Manchester artwork (second, after Birmingham) took seven weeks to plan, map and produce and measures a whopping 2 x 1.5m. Posters will be available to buy in the library shop, with all proceeds going back into the ambitious project. Next stop: Edinburgh.

Central Library, St Peter's Square, M2 5PD (Mon-Thurs 9am-8pm, Fri-Sat 9am-5pm; free).

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Sketch Lorna Le Bredonchel


Ever seen a polar bear at the tram stop? Or a whale out of water? Mosey round Salford Quays this May and you just might, as a menagerie of four sculptures - also including a red squirrel and a bee - will be taking up residency at MediaCityUK. A Quays Culture commission, the animals will tower over the public by day; come sunset, they’ll light up with stunning projections courtesy of mapping and LED technology, highlighting our responsibility to these threatened creatures in a powerful visual showcase.

MediaCityUK, Salford, M50 2EQ (free).

NEW LINES IN SPACE | Contemporary Six | 1-21 June

For better or worse, it’s undeniable that Manchester’s skyline is changing dramatically, as developers clamour to capitalise on the city’s building boom. No.1 Spinningfields is a prime example; now nearing completion, the 92m skyscraper will be Manchester’s tallest office block since the 1963 CIS Tower. New Lines in Space was initiated when artist Colin Taylor was commissioned to document the process, the result a series of paintings depicting the two-year transformation of both No. 1 and its Spinningfields surrounds - from street level to 1000 feet above the city. 

Contemporary Six, 37 Princess Street, M2 4FN (various times; free). 

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New Lines in Space Colin Taylor

RAQIB SHAW | The Whitworth | 24 June - November

A vivid melange of fantastical creatures and opulent landscapes, it’s little wonder Shaw’s work has acquired international status. East and west, myth and reality, traditional and contemporary… the intricate paintings, embellished with jewels and enamel, are a melting pot of influences that inhabit an oeuvre all of their own. For this special exhibition - part of New North and South - Shaw’s paintings will be combined with historic textiles, furniture and drawings from the Whitworth collection referencing Kashmir and the aesthetic of the East.

The Whitworth, Oxford Road, M15 6ER (10am-5pm, Thurs until 9pm; free). 

TRUE FAITH | Manchester Art Gallery | 30 June - 3 September

This Manchester International Festival world premiere explores the ongoing significance and legacy of New Order and Joy Division through notable artists like Liam Gillick and Martin Boyce; along with Peter Saville’s seminal cover designs and a wealth of performance footage. Also debuting as part of MIF in June will be ToGather - an immersive exhibition and performance on migration and movement - and No End to Enderby, a film tribute to seminal author Anthony Burgess on the 100th year of his birthday.

Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, M2 3JL (10am-5pm, Thurs until 9pm; free).  

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Factory Icon Slater B. Bradley