“That it feels radical to exhibit the work of hundreds of local artists in a city-centre location like HOME is a wake-up call – we need to change our way of thinking about art and artists,” (HOME Curator Bren O’Callaghan).
One tendency that dominates the exhibitions programme of most large art institutions is the import of work by promising young artists or established household names from elsewhere. But why? Shouldn’t our civic galleries also be a place for highlighting and celebrating ‘local talent’ too? What makes ‘local talent’ implicitly less worthy of public attention? These are the questions that have prompted a major new announcement from HOME: the launch of the Manchester Open Exhibition – the first region-wide exhibition of its type, accepting submissions from anyone living in either Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford or Wigan. Not just this, but the plan is for it to become a permanent calendar fixture, rolling round every two years.
The exhibition will feature work by over 500 artists, which, even in HOME’s large gallery space, carries the promise of few areas of bare wall – echoing the Royal Academy’s jam-packed curatorial approach to the ever-popular Summer Exhibition (the world’s oldest open submission exhibition, established in 1769). That the RA show attracts such vast crowds each year is down to many factors – but perhaps most importantly: its reputation for showing such a high standard of truly diverse and eclectic work, with pieces by established artists like David Hockney or Tracey Emin sitting alongside first-time exhibitors. Likewise, entries submitted to the Manchester Open Exhibition will be selected and curated by a solid panel of familiar figures from the city’s art scene – Jamil Abdulkader; Monique Jarret; Anne Louise Kershaw; Bren O’Callaghan; Mario Popham; Kate Vokes and Helen Wewiora – promising quality.
Similar to the Summer Exhibition and the John Moores Painting Prize, the Manchester Open will also stage a People’s Vote, allowing visitors to decide which work they feel stands out the most. For HOME to commit to exhibiting work by such a large pool of ‘local talent’ in this way is exciting and refreshing. Let’s see what Greater Manchester comes up with in response.
The call for entries is open until the 7 October, leaving plenty of time to apply, and artforms as diverse as painting and photography through to audio, spoken word, performance are accepted.