Progress on our Oxford Road entrance

9 10 2014


Its been a while since the last blog post, but there has been much progress on site, with the biggest difference being visible at the Oxford Road side of the building. A month or two ago, staff ceased to be able to enter the building through the original portico and we currently have a temporary side entrance. From then onwards, our new contractors, Manchester & Cheshire have been busy reconfiguring the stone steps, removing the brick and terracotta walls and levelling out the ground to make our new landscaped frontage and sculpture terrace.

The following images chart this progress:

Each stone step is numbered before removal

Each stone step is numbered before removal

This one is number 38!

This one is number 38!

The brick structure beneath the stone steps revealed

The brick structure beneath the stone steps revealed

The Mike Lyons sculpture 'Phalanx' is carefully removed from site

The Mike Lyons sculpture ‘Phalanx’ is carefully removed from site

Foundations are put in place for siting sculpture and for the new steps and disabled access

Foundations are put in place for siting sculpture and for the new steps and disabled access

New stone steps are carefully aligned and laid in place

New stone steps are carefully aligned and laid in place

The base for a new set of steps is constructed near the gates onto Oxford Road

The base for a new set of steps is constructed near the gates onto Oxford Road

While the new build element of our project is still somewhat hidden behind the hoardings at the park side of the Gallery, everyone passing can enjoy progress at the Oxford Road side. We are now counting down to our reopening to the public on Saturday 14 February 2015 and excitement is growing – we can’t wait to welcome everyone back into our lovely building, both the old and the new.


New Landscaping design facing Oxford Road

29 06 2014

New Landscaping design facing Oxford Road

With only four months to go before the Whitworth reopens its doors, life for everyone at the Gallery has ramped up a notch or two. Last week saw the arrival on site of our Phase II contractors, Manchester & Cheshire Construction Co Ltd., who will be joining ISG on completing the overall building project for the new Whitworth. The second phase of the project focuses on the original frontage of the Gallery facing onto Oxford Road which will be completely re-landscaped, combining an architectural design from MUMA, a new lighting scheme by engineers, Buro Happold, garden design by Sarah Price and the installation of existing sculptures and new commissions onto a sculpture terrace.

In anticipation of the Oxford Road Corridor scheme, which will see private vehicles removed from a length of Oxford Road, including directly in front of the Whitworth, there will be no vehicle access into the Gallery grounds. Instead, visitors arriving by car or coach will approach the building from Denmark Road, while anyone using public transport, cycle or on foot will be able to use either the new Parkside entrance or the redeveloped entrance as shown in the architect’s drawing above.

All the existing gates will remain, but the current road (due to be dug up over the next few weeks) will be replaced by a gently sloping stone and bound gravel route, and reconfigured step-free entrance, providing level access from the outer pavements all the way into the building. There will be a terrace area for events, gatherings and the display of artworks; all the existing trees will be retained and complemented with new formal planting, lawns, seating and soft landscaping.

Tibetan Cherry

Tibetan Cherry

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 21.21.00
The soft landscaping designs by Sarah Price will include loosely clipped ‘cloud’ hedging to create a low rolling structure, formal trees such as Tibetan Cherry providing interest with decorative flowers, leaves and bark, and year round colour through flowering bulbs.

'Cloud' hedging and flowering bulbs

‘Cloud’ hedging and flowering bulbs

So far, much of the work on site has been at the back of the original building, but there will be great changes to the site facing Oxford Road over the next few months. This final part of the scheme is being funded mostly by Arts Council England and will link both sides of the Gallery and the surrounding Whitworth Park through the landscaping and lighting designs – watch this space.

Art in the Park – 4

20 05 2014

Art in the Park - 4

Last month’s teaser question made reference to an artwork that has been a permanent fixture of the Whitworth’s grounds since 2009. The sight of Gustav Metzger’s striking installation Flailing Trees will be very familiar to those who travel along Oxford Road day-to-day. The road, upon which we are situated, is reportedly Europe’s “busiest bus route”, and channels those based in South Manchester into and out of the city centre for work, hospital appointments, lectures at the universities or evenings out.

Originally a commission for Manchester International Festival (hyperlink:, the work consists of 20 upended willow trees, heads plunged into a base of around 7 tonnes of concrete. It occupied a space in Manchester Peace Garden for the duration of the 2009 festival before being moved (with the assistance of a crane) down to its existing spot outside our Oxford Road entrance. It is now part of our permanent collection and is viewable through all seasons, against the changing backdrop of Whitworth Park.

Described by Metzger when speaking to the Guardian (Hyperlink: as a “protest piece,” he justifies the ‘violent arrangement’, the roots unnaturally exposed, bare and jutting towards the sky – in juxtaposition with the living lushness of the trees of Whitworth Park, as a stand against the brutality that humans display towards the natural world.

Gustav Metzger is a hugely influential artist and political activist who pioneered the concept of Auto-Destructive Art in the 1960s and the Art Strike of the 1990s. A new exhibition focusing on Metzger’s “auto-creative” work will open later this month at Kettle’s Yard (Hyperlink:

And so for our next month’s teaser question – ‘Which one-night-only park artwork was inspired by this song?’

Art in the Park – 3

17 04 2014

Art in the Park - 3

Are you becoming an expert on all the marvellous artworks that surround the Whitworth already or that have made a temporary appearance in the Gallery grounds or Whitworth Park? Or were you baffled by last month’s ‘Art in the Park’ teaser question?

The image above, taken by photographer, Alan Seabright, shows visitors to Whitworth Park responding to both the sight and sound of Emeka Ogboh’s ‘Lagos Soundscape’.

Throughout the summer of 2012 a stretch of Whitworth Park reverberated with the sounds of a market in Lagos, due to Emeka’s carefully placed barrel speakers in the trees. This was all in aid of We Face Forward, a summer of contemporary West African art and music across the city, celebrated in galleries, gig venues, via a roving ‘Art Bus’ and events and installations which permeated some of Manchester’s public spaces.

WFF_Whitworth Art Gallery_03

This work had the ability to transport you thousands of miles in an instant, and for many caused a split-second of confusion or recognition. Sister works based on sound recordings from other locations in Lagos ran as an one-off in Piccadilly Gardens and throughout the festival outside Manchester Art Gallery.

We Face Forward co-curator Bryony Bond says of the project, which is part of an ongoing series: ‘Lagos Soundscapes captures the ever-changing sounds of Africa’s most populous city and the artist’s own hometown, Lagos, Nigeria. The city is described by Ogboh as shaped by globalisation, a combination of “new and old, modern and archaic, first and third world”.’

Follow Lagos Soundscapes on Twitter @goslowlagos
Via their website:
Subscribe to their Soundcloud:

And so to this month’s teaser question: ‘Which Whitworth artwork comprises this unusual forest of trees?’

Art in the Park – 2

20 03 2014

Art in the Park - 2

Last month we talked about the new connections being made between the extended new Whitworth and its surrounding grounds and Whitworth Park, including more large scale art installations, sculptures and artist commissions. The answer to last month’s question: ‘Which Whitworth Park artwork is made from recycled brick and concrete from Hulme and Moss Side?’, is : Cyprien Gaillard, Whitworth Park Obelisk, 2011. Above is an image of the Obelisk taken in the Spring sunshine earlier this week, with our continuing building work going on in the background.

Curator of Fine Art, Mary Griffiths says of the work: ‘This permanent public sculpture by the celebrated French artist sits on a plinth that has been empty since the Second World War. It was commissioned by the Whitworth as part of the exhibition The Land Between Us, a new look at landscape art – its imagery, and the places and power associated with it. The work is a traditional obelisk shape, but is made from recycled brick and concrete – the brick from recently demolished late nineteenth-century houses in the Bowes Street area of Moss Side, and the concrete from the remains of the 1960s flats that were located around Bonsall Street in Hulme’.

WW Park 3

Have a look at this next image, and see if you know the answer to our next ‘Art in the Park’ teaser question:

‘Which artwork brought the sounds of Lagos to Whitworth Park?’

Art in the Park – 1

24 02 2014

Art in the Park - 1a


Several artworks, including ‘Phalanx” by Mike Lyons (photo above) have permanently graced the grounds at the front of the Whitworth for many years. Periodically other works have also appeared as part of temporary exhibitions, such as Subodh Gupta’s awe-inspiring and monumental sculpture that evoked the sights and sounds of India and reflected Rusholme’s famous Curry Mile – ‘Spaceship’ was a commission for the Manchester International Festival in 2007 (see photo left).

Lawrence, a member of our VSA team has been looking at Art in the Park and making connexions between the inside and the outside:

‘Upon its construction in 1889 The Whitworth became amongst the first English galleries to be situated in a park, and our redevelopment truly reconnects the Gallery with its surroundings. Expect to see much more of the park from the inside looking out, from our new Landscape Gallery, Promenade and Cafe in the Trees. We will also be displaying large-scale artwork in our new outdoor spaces, such as the Art Garden and Orchard Garden.

In anticipation we will be posing a question each month which relates to a memorable artwork the Gallery has shown in Whitworth Park – check out the extraordinary action photograph below.

Q. Which Whitworth Park artwork is made from recycled brick and concrete from Hulme and Moss Side?’


Image credit: Martin Stalker

Keep reading the blog for the answer in a few weeks time and the next ‘Art in the Park’ question. And don’t forget you can stay tuned in to the Whitworth’s collections by reading the Whitworth ‘Work of the Week’ blog at:

Shrouded sculpture!

7 10 2013

Shrouded sculpture!

The last collection to be temporarily relocated during the current phase of our decant was the Whitworth’s sculpture collection. These items normally reside in our basement and last week were moved to enable our contractors access to this area for refurbishment work. As well as building fabulous new extensions to the Gallery, our architects, MUMA went to great lengths to analyse the existing building and rationalise how current spaces were utilised. As a result many areas that had previously been inhabited in a fairly ad hoc manner, will in future be reorganised and put to better and more efficient use. Some of our present collection stores are being turned into plant rooms, general stores or workshops; access routes will be simplified and some new walls will be built. The sculpture collection will ultimately be returned to its former location, although the store itself will be increased to almost double the size.

Although quite small, our sculpture collection continues to grow and contains some wonderful pieces that complement in particular our works on paper collection. Whilst many of the works will remain shrouded under dust covers during the Gallery’s closed period, other items will go on exhibition just up the road at Manchester Art Gallery including: Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Sphere with Inner Form’, Anthony Caro’s ‘Table Piece XCVIII’, and Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s ‘The Twin Towers of the Sfinx’. Look out for them, and other works from the Whitworth’s collection, in the forthcoming exhibition, ‘Sculptural Forms’ which runs at Manchester Art Gallery from 28 February to 30 September 2014.