This blog post may be a little late in the writing but how great is it that two amazingly strong and critically intelligent female artists were chosen to headline the newly re-opened Whitworth Gallery, setting itself up as a force to be reckoned with. This new multi-million investment surely places Manchester in the top handful of rich artistic cities in the UK, and its great for us as its right on our doorstep.
Having reached the 100,000 visitors toll last month, It’s a pleasure to take in the new revamp in the early opening hours of the morning so I could wander around without a constant mill of people around. And it does get busier as the day goes on, a true testament to the ground the Whitworth has made up since its last incarnation in 2013. There is an extra special energy to the building now, its space, light airy rooms and spectacular setting against the trees in Whitworth Park. Regarding the exhibits, well, the length and breadth currently on show are unbelievably good.
Cornelia Parker heads up with a stunning display of work based on exchanges between science and art. Cut-up sawn-off shotguns, bullets melted into new wire formations, red hot pokers singe paper paintings, snake venom mixed with ink create new symmetries. The unforgiving ‘War Room’ is a homage to Remembrance Day and also a unequivocal nod to the rows upon rows of cemetery fields across in Europe. So stark with its minimal lighting. One that most people can relate to in some form. Moving around the corner you are struck by flattened musical instruments, crockery and cutlery hanging from the ceiling and Rodin’s kiss is shrouded in white yarn. Nearby are clever handmade embroidered canvases with opposite meanings to show the ‘black and white’ significance to terminology – ‘Life and Death’; ‘Good and Evil’; ‘Heaven and Hell’.
‘Cold Dark Matter’ is my personal favourite. For when can you ever get the Royal Army to help you to blow up a garden shed. Never. Except for Cornelia Parker. A shed blown up to smithereens and put back together in mid-explosion. Shadows spanning the rooms, and light jutting out from every crevice and cranny.
Don’t leave before seeing Sarah Lucas’ display upstairs including ‘Willy’ her garden gnome covered in Marlboro light cigarettes and the fabulously decadent ‘Tits’ wallpaper, a nod to the Whitworth’s extensive wallpaper and textile collection.
The fantastic ‘explosive’ landscape created by Chinese artist, Cai Guo-Qiang, will enchant your senses and you definitely shouldn’t leave without watching the accompanying film demonstrating how he creates these wonderful modern masterpieces.
All in all, with its free entry, dazzling array of temporary exhibitions and superb permanent collection, the Whitworth will soon be reaching its 200,000th visitor.
Make sure you’re one of them!
Whitworth Art Gallery
Oxford Road, Manchester