After rejoicing in late summer at slowly being allowed back into galleries, lockdown 2.0 came around and the country is bunkered up once again. Most places are tentatively planning to reopen in early December, in line with government guidance, and the dates for many current exhibitions have thankfully been extended. For now, though, it’s back to the virtual realm.
One of the many things that the last year has been a powerful reminder of is the importance of culture. The explosion of agility and resourcefulness shown by artists and organisations seeking to provide new kinds of access has been incredible to witness. Exhibitions, programmes, even whole festivals have been reinvented for the online sphere; creative care packages delivered to local residents’ doors; historic collections brought to life digitally; and new artworks commissioned specifically for sofa-based experiences.
We won’t lie, however. The freedom of being able to wander around a physical space and experience works IRL is hard to beat. And in Manchester and Salford, we’re lucky enough to have one of the highest concentrations of fantastic galleries outside of London. Here we list a few of our favourites and what to look forward to when they reopen.
Here are our picks
Castlefield Gallery, 2 Hewitt Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M15 4GB - Visit now
A small but influential gallery, Castlefield presents thought-provoking work by local, national and international artists at key stages in their career. It includes Turner Prize winners, such as Ryan Gander, among its alumni.
The plan is to reopen on 6 December with Obstructions – a rather unconventional group show about the freedoms within restriction, and rules that are sometimes there to be broken.
The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M15 6ER - Visit now
Winner of Art Fund’s Museum of the Year award 2015 following a major £15m redevelopment, the beautifully designed Whitworth Art Gallery is a true gem of a place. Its internationally important art collection is presented alongside a changing programme of contemporary exhibitions and outdoor sculpture, whilst the spectacular ‘café in the trees’ is well worth a visit alone.
Though temporarily closed until further notice, the Whitworth Park and Art Garden remain open to enjoy and The Whitworth at Home (a free digital programme created at the start of the first lockdown) continues online. We also recommend White Psyche as soon as a visit to the gallery is back on the cards.
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 3JL - Visit now
Positioned at the very heart of the city, Manchester Art Gallery houses six centuries worth of fine art, ceramics, glass, furniture and costume, and presents a year-round programme of contemporary exhibitions by world-leading artists.
Whilst its doors are closed, staff are busy preparing for the opening of Grayson’ Art Club – a hotly anticipated display of artwork created by the public documenting aspects of life during the pandemic.
Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Market buildings, Thomas Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1EU - Visit now
Tucked away at the end of Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter, CFCCA is the number one place for experiencing Chinese contemporary art in the UK. Its dynamic programme of events and exhibitions explore and question the notion of ‘Chineseness’ in today’s world.
During November, head to Instagram to experience the gallery’s new commission, ‘nineteen ways of looking’ – a digital opera that responds to the COVID-19 pandemic – by artist and composer Jasmin Kent Rodgman.
HOME Manchester, 2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M15 4FN - Visit now
Manchester’s much-loved multi-arts centre HOME may be closed for now but you can still enjoy its online programme from the comfort of your own… home. Access a virtual curator tour, images, and artist interviews associated with the gallery’s current trio of exhibitions exploring isolation through graphics and illustration, via the venue’s website.
The Holden Gallery, Grosvenor Building, Cavendish Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M15 6BR - Visit now
Manchester School of Art’s lovely Holden Gallery remains closed until the New Year, but you can still enjoy works from a special online edition of its Interruptions series (showcasing interdisciplinary performances and events by artists at all stages in their career), released right at the beginning of lockdown.
Bury Art Museum and Sculpture Centre, Moss Street, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 0DR - Visit now
This grand neoclassical building is home to temporary exhibitions of acclaimed international art, contemporary and historical collections, a beautifully-curated shop, and Tina’s tea rooms (serving excellent toasted teacakes). Well worth the tram ride.
Enjoy themed activities, and insights and reflections on the gallery’s collection, from the Bury team via BAM Online.
Salford Museum and Art Gallery, Peel Park, The Crescent, Salford, Greater Manchester, M5 4WU - Visit now
Once a favourite haunt of the great LS Lowry, Salford Museum & Art Gallery is a friendly destination with special appeal to families. Its collections focus on Victorian art and local social history, while its temporary exhibitions present work by contemporary artists from around the world.