All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: Jeremy Deller at Manchester Art Gallery

Desmond Bullen

The Industrial Revolution may have occurred 150 years ago, but its influence lingers on – in music, art and popular culture – as the premiere of Jeremy Deller’s new show reveals.

It is hard to think about Jeremy Deller without thinking about pop. The Turner prize-winning artist seems to embody the precisely moment in 1982 where three minutes of artifice and artlessness made perfect sense, whether seen through the smirk of Smash Hits or the dissection of the New Musical Express. He’s pop in an imprecise sense too: Black Box Recorder raising an eyebrow at Up Town Top Ranking, Anthony Wilson without a television show, Brian Eno, before and after science.

Precisely, he is imprecise. If Damien Hirst is forever hobnobbing at The Groucho Club with Keith Allen in nineteen ninety whatever, if Andy Warhol is eternally reflecting Edie Sedgwick’s emptiness in 1967, then Deller is everywhere and nowhere. He is as much the zeitgeist as Adam Curtis, and as adrift from these times as The Man Who Fell To Earth. Curiously, Deller seems unencumbered by irony. Perhaps, because his curiosity is unfeigned. Joy In People was less a retrospective than a manifesto.

The exhibition encapsulates Deller’s aesthetic; to create and curate moments

But Deller is as undaunted by manifestos as any art school pop star, as unembarrassed by them as Marx and Engels (the political philosophers, rather than the song by Belle and Sebastian, although with Deller, it could as readily be either or both). The title of his current exhibition which tours the post-industrial cities of post-punk England, derives from The Communist Manifesto. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air which opens at Manchester Art Gallery next month, is a poetic evocation of Free Trade’s entropic effect upon meaning and an encapsulation of Deller’s aesthetic; to create – and curate – moments.

All That Is Solid toys with the effect of the Industrial Revolution on popular culture as though the two were more separable than conjoined twins. It is an endeavour especially apt in the Manchester of Engels and Procession. Amidst the tainted glitter of glam rock and the never-fashionable racket of heavy metal, lipstick will be traced between such half-remembered artists as John Martin and James Sharples. The former conceived an Apocalypse (just as his brother, who set fire to York Minster, enacted one); the latter, a blacksmith by trade, portrayed the heat of The Forge, in paints that he traipsed to Manchester to buy. Deller infects us with his joy in these singular individuals, a joy made bittersweet by its transience; precisely as short as a pop song, imprecisely as lasting as time. Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, M2 3JL, 10am-5pm Mon-Sun (until 9pm Thu), all weekend (Saturday 12 Oct-19 Jan 2014), free.

Culture Guides

Cinema in Manchester and the North

We look at the socially distant screenings and digital releases you can enjoy as cinemas begin to reopen safely.

Images of protest: Black Lives Matter at People's History Museum


Art and women’s wrestling, Ancient Akkadian gravesites and invented artefacts – check out this month’s pick of exhibitions from across the north.

Makefest At Home


Need some inspiration for online activities and creative family fun? Look no further than our top picks online for families across Manchester and the North.

Poet Dean Atta. Photo by Hussina Raja.


Festival fever takes hold of Live Literature Land as it does every October, just this year it’s in the ether. Grab a glass and settle down in the Zoom room for some online readings.



Discover the best live-streamed concerts, broadcasts, musical activities and exhibitions on offer during lockdown Mk II.

Theatre in Manchester. Image courtesy of RashDash.


We can’t wait to be back in the stalls again…until then our theatre guide brings the best of online theatre and interactive performance to enjoy at home.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester.

Higher Ground

Food and Drink in Manchester and the North

For the August guide, we’ve dug out the best Food and Drink in Manchester and the North to explore now that lockdown has thankfully eased.

Isolation Broadcast

Online events

Discover the best things to do online from the organisations we love in Manchester and the North.

tours and activities

Tours and Activities

Socially distant walks and virtual tours are among the offerings in this month’s guide of Tours and Activities.