Exhibitions in Manchester and the North

Polly Checkland Harding, Exhibitions Editor

If it’s possible to think of exhibitions (or art in general) as a call to action in one form or another, then an overview of the current best in Manchester and the North might be summed up in the following directive: think differently. Take NEON: The Charged Line at the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool, which challenges its audience to see neon as a medium that goes beyond advertising and sex shop signs. Or Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus at Tate Liverpool, which looks at how two artists, though centuries apart, can be compared by theme. Manchester Art Gallery, meanwhile, has just announced a fantastic programme of events to accompany its Fashion & Freedom and Vogue 100: A Century of Style exhibitions; in partnership with Selfridges, there’s the chance to discuss why women are still appraised on the basis of their wardrobe, rather than their work, and much more.

This year’s Humanities in Public Festival – not strictly an exhibition, but a city-wide programme of events that enjoys over 7,000 attendees annually – is a celebration of Manchester’s complex identity, with fascinating discussions about radical history, architecture, youth culture and the Gothic North, as well as events that ask ‘what’s next?’ for the city. Finally, Manchester Museum’s Science Uncovered event is a opportunity to meet leading researchers after hours, and to have them expand your scientific – and creative – horizons.

Here are our top 5 picks

  • 1. Humanities in Public Festival

    Humanities in Public Festival
    Simone Ridyard

    Humanities in Public Festival at Number 70 Oxford Street, Manchester, 7 October 2016–24 June 2017 - Book now

    The annual Humanities in Public Festival enjoys a strong reputation for its city-wide programme of events – and over 7,000 regular attendees. This year’s line-up includes the Gothic Manchester mini-festival, a walk that spans two cities and culminates in a pub quiz, and an adventurous bus tour led by the Manchester Modernists.

  • 2. NEON: The Charged Line at the Grundy Art Gallery

    Tim Etchells, Lets Pretend (Large) (2014), installation view, Grundy Art Gallery. Photo: Phill Heywood, courtesy Grundy Art Gallery.
    Tim Etchells, Lets Pretend (Large) (2014), installation view, Grundy Art Gallery. Photo: Phill Heywood, courtesy Grundy Art Gallery.

    NEON: The Charged Line at Grundy Art Gallery, 1 September 2016–7 January 2017, free entry - Visit now

    The most significant survey of neon in art staged in the UK to date, spanning from the 1960s to the present day; NEON: The Charged Line is a stunning exhibition featuring works by artists including Tracey Emin, Gavin Turk and Joseph Kosuth.

  • 3. Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus

    Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus
    Tracey Emin, born 1963. My Bed 1998. Lent by The Duerckheim Collection 2015. © Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2016.

    Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus at Tate Liverpool, Waterfront, 16 September 2016–3 September 2017, free entry - Visit now

    The artists Tracey Emin and William Blake are intriguingly juxtaposed in this exhibition at Tate Liverpool – one that reveals shared preoccupations across the centuries. This is the first time that Emin’s infamous My Bed (1998) installation will be on show in the North of England.

  • 4. Off Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground at The John Rylands Library

    Photo of the exhibition installation
    Image courtesy of The John Rylands Library.

    Off Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground at The John Rylands Library, City Centre, 8 September 2016–5 March 2017, free entry - Visit now

    This major new exhibition and events programme at The John Rylands Library showcases the work and influence of the Lancashire-born creative, rebel and raconteur Jeff Nuttall. This showcase of Nuttall’s work, correspondence, outlook and influence makes a persuasive case for his being one of the most influential cultural figures in the 20th century – despite being lesser-known. Through rarely-seen manuscripts, magazines, letters and more, Off Beat brings to life a man who the Guardian labelled as a ‘priest and prophet of permissiveness’, who once endangered himself by being covered in blue paint for a performance – and who was rescued by the dressing room bath of a knighted conductor. Discover more about his eclectic output – and somewhat eccentric life…

  • 5. Liverpool Biennial 2016

    Installation shot of laser art work
    Liverpool Biennial. Photo by Joel Chester Fildes

    Liverpool Biennial 2016, 9 July 2016–16 October 2016, free entry - Visit now

    How do you divide up a festival that features 44 contemporary artists from five different continents across nine locations? Not to mention the art that’s soon to dot the streets of Liverpool… Our answer: with some difficulty, but with great pleasure. Every other year, Liverpool Biennial brings an extraordinary collection of new commissions to our sister city, and 2016 – the ninth iteration of the event – is no different. Discover heady archival footage shown in a former night club, site specific work created using objects ‘smuggled’ from Dubai to Liverpool in a shipping container and more.

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