Manchester’s museums and galleries have been working hard to make sure they provide safe and enjoyable experiences – all have additional coronavirus measures in place and they remain open under the Tier 3 restrictions. If you’re planning a cultural day out in the city, we’ve created a handy roundup of what’s on at Manchester’s museums and galleries to help you plan your itinerary.
Most galleries will need you to book a ticket in advance – usually for free – and may be operating slightly different opening hours to usual, so please check the websites in advance of your visit.
Here’s some ideas for what you can do and a map to help you find your way around:
HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, M15 4FN – that’s us!
HOME’s Curator Bren O’Callaghan brings together artists Nick Burton, Joy Yamusangie and duo Mike S Redmond & Faye Coral Johnson in a bumper presentation of three separate exhibitions, under the umbrella title Art Comes HOME. While the artists’ styles are very different, they are tied together by a unifying use of illustration.
All featured artists employ an unapologetic use of graphics and illustration as core to their practice, whilst the effects of working in isolation – be it in direct response to lockdown, or the continuing pursuit of an acutely personal journey – is also present throughout. The use of abstracted and playful figuration invites a closer reading, although a mirror can deceive as well as document.
Castlefield Gallery, Hewitt Street, M15 4GB (five minute walk from HOME)
Castlefield Gallery has two new exhibitions for Autumn, Soft Bodies (until 1 Nov) and Obstructions (22 Nov 2020 – 17 Nov 2021). Soft Bodies takes its title from Soft-body dynamics, a field of computer-generated graphics which creates simulations of soft materials such as muscle, fat, hair, vegetation and fabric. The increasing availability of this kind of software has given artists new tools to make work; manipulating ‘digital clay’ in limitless space. For Obstructions, Castlefield Gallery invited 15 artists from the North West of England to re-make an existing piece of their work with one condition: they had to accept a bespoke ‘Obstruction’ given to them by another artist in the exhibition. Inspired by a long history of artists using self-imposed restrictions to aid creative or free thinking, it also riffs off the restrictions and disruptions caused by COVID-19.
Science and Industry Museum, Liverpool Road, M3 4FP (10 minute walk from HOME)
The Science and Industry Museum is devoted to inspiring our visitors through ideas that change the world, from the Industrial Revolution to today and beyond. Visitors can explore the Revolution Manchester Gallery, where the city’s rich legacy of world-changing innovations, discoveries and ideas are on display; the Textiles Gallery, which tells the story of how cotton transformed the city into an industrial powerhouse; and the Experiment Gallery, a favourite among family visitors who can see science brought to life through a series of interactive exhibits.
Its blockbuster temporary exhibition, The Sun, is also available to explore for free, and visitors can follow a trail around the outdoor Upper Yard, getting a sense of what life would have been like when it was the location of a bustling railway terminus.
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, M2 3JL (12 minute walk from HOME)
Enjoy Manchester Art Gallery’s brand new display What is Manchester Art Gallery? which offers a dynamic introduction to the gallery including its origins, how the collection was formed and how it relates to Manchester and its people.
You can also reconnect with old favourites or discover hidden gems in the displays from the 18th and 19th centuries. The galleries feature British and European art and design with a few contemporary works to encourage conversation.
People’s History Museum, Spinningfields, M3 3ER (17 minute walk from HOME)
Enjoy a friendly welcome at the national museum of democracy, and explore the past, present and future of ideas worth fighting for. Throughout two family friendly galleries and the latest Banner Exhibition, discover ground-breaking stories of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, votes for women, workers’ rights, and more ideas worth fighting for of today, with hands-on and digital interactives along the way.
Check out the special exhibition Images of Protest: Black Lives Matter, and PHM’s 2020 – 2021 programme exploring migration; including powerful exhibitions revealing personal experiences, and online workshops and Radical Late events exploring migration in relation to textiles, climate change, immigration, and activism. Browse PHM’s shop for souvenirs and gifts inspired by the museum’s collection, with all purchases supporting the museum, and take a break from exploring in the picnic area.
Manchester Museum, Oxford Road, M13 9PL (18 minute walk from HOME)
Manchester Museum, part of The University of Manchester, is the UK’s largest university museum with a collection of about 4.5 million objects. From the iconic T.rex to the live frogs in the Vivarium, the Museum has a rich Natural History collection that includes displays of zoology, entomology and botany.
The new exhibition Minerals: Sustainability and Hidden Stories explores interesting and untold stories of some of its most spectacular specimens. The stunning collection of over one hundred gemstones is on display for the first time. The Museum is also looking openly and honestly at the history of its collections, displaying South African gold ore alongside photographs of the African migrant miners who worked in the mines. The exhibition also tells the story of modern-day diamond mining in Sierra Leonne for the first time in a UK museum.
Manchester Museum is currently undergoing an exciting transformation, which means that the Ancient Worlds galleries, including Ancient Egypt, are temporarily closed. The hello future project includes a permanent South Asia Gallery, the Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery, and a new Exhibition Hall. This ongoing work will allow the Museum to become more inclusive, imaginative and caring to the diverse communities it serves.
National Football Museum, Cathedral Gardens, M4 3BG (21 minute walk from HOME)
The National Football Museum is the place to share stories about everyone’s favourite game. Objects and exhibitions show how English football grew to become a worldwide obsession.
The current exhibition: Strip! How football got shirty captures the growth of the football shirt phenomenon, charting the replica boom and the bold designs that followed, right through to high-tech advancements and retro reappraisals.
There’s also the museum’s penalty shootout, guaranteed to test the nerves of any budding Salah, Vardy or Sterling!
Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art, Thomas Street, M4 1EU (22 minute walk from HOME)
CFCCA have two great exhibitions to enjoy – Multiplicities in Flux, bringing together works by photographer Grace Lau and filmmaker Eelyn Lee, and Omid Asadi’s Autopsy of a Home.
Multiplicities in Flux brings together works by Grace Lau and Eelyn Lee in a dialogue around identity and belonging in Britain. Lau’s series of portraits 21st Century Types (2005) reflects the multiplicity of contemporary British society and comments on the othering of Chinese people and culture through photography, while Lee’s film Britishness (2019) investigates the often indefinable notion of ‘Britishness’.
In the immersive exhibition, Autopsy of a Home, Omid Asadi explores the diasporic experiences and domestic spaces of migrants using the concept of heterotopia (literally meaning ‘other places’).
The Whitworth, Oxford Road, M15 6ER (28 minute walk from HOME, or catch the bus from Oxford Road Station Stop B)
The Whitworth has plenty of exhibitions to enjoy – from White Psyche, which takes a refreshingly challenging look at the story of Cupid and Psyche, to Utopias, which brings together historic, modern, and contemporary artworks. This exhibition reveals how utopian strategies have captured human imagination, looking to represent an ideal future and better society.
There’s a focus on ‘Outsider Art’ in Other Transmissions, a collaboration with Venture Arts and Castlefield Gallery, and a compelling look at the history of the Whitworth interwoven with the theme of Standardization and Deviation. Alongside, Unreformed, a celebratory look at the diversity of mid-19th wallpaper design and pattern when improvements in manufacturing resulted in greater accessibility and a dramatic explosion of choice.
While you’re there relax and delight in nature’s seasonal changes in Whitworth Park from the comfort of the Whitworth’s Cafe in the trees. The Cafe is open during gallery times and is serving a simplified menu to enjoy as you view the urban sanctuary of the flourishing Art Garden below.
IWM North, Trafford Wharf Road, M17 1TZ (Catch the tram to MediaCityUK from Deansgate-Castlefield)
Purpose-built to tell the powerful stories of over a century of war, IWM North makes full use of its extraordinary exhibition space to deliver an award-winning immersive experience.
Alongside their permanent collection, IWM North have Aid Workers: Ethics Under Fire, which brings together powerful stories from conflict zones to explore practical, emotional and ethical challenges faced by aid workers from an insider perspective.
Through combining personal ‘in the field’ testimonies and scenario-based interactives, you can put yourself in the shoes of an aid worker and consider how you might respond to complicated decisions about the reach of aid, funding, responsibility and risk.
The Lowry, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ (Catch the tram to MediaCityUK from Deansgate-Castlefield)
The Lowry’s new exhibition, Days Like These, opens on 1 Nov. The exhibition which shares the stories of Salford in 2020, using paintings, photographs, films and poetry contributed by some of the 245,000 residents of the city – from empty Salford streets and the joy of reuniting, to the impact on frontline workers and the challenges of being alone. The exhibition wants to reflect the hopes and fears of everyone, then and now, and after you have seen the exhibition, we hope you contribute too.
Alongside is a new display of the best of Salford’s own LS Lowry – an artist known for his paintings of crowded city streets, and vast empty landscapes.