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A Beginner’s Guide to Manchester’s Art Scene

A Beginner’s Guide to Manchester’s Art Scene

October 2023

From classic pre-Raphaelite masterpieces to immersive digital media, Manchester’s art scene is a cultural melting pot of artistic genres and styles and is choc-full of galleries, and arts venues which cater to every artistic taste.

Why Manchester?

There’s a laid-back feel to the cultural institutions in Manchester; a world away from the quiet stuffiness of the more formal spaces of some cities (but we won’t name names). Many of the galleries also offer a whole hive of opportunities to learn or just chat about art in a formal relaxed setting.

In addition to plenty of amazing art, you’ll find a fantastic comedy circuit, an incredible foodie scene and a plethora of fashionable places to head to on an evening, making it a top destination for the perfect city break.

If Manchester is your base or starting point, you may be looking to expand your artistic horizons and embark upon an art-themed road trip or multi-destination, culture-filled holiday. With other European countries in such close proximity, it’s easy to find Manchester return flights to a whole host of cultural institutions, perfect for if you’re feeling inspired to take your tour of the galleries further afield.

But before you decide to jet off to the Louvre or take a trip to the Vatican. Let’s start a little closer to home and take a look at some of the most interesting and inclusive artistic spaces the city has to offer.

The Penthouse Gallery

The Penthouse Gallery was founded in 2012 as an experimental art studio curated by Rosanne Robertson & Debbie Sharp.

It is the artists’ lesbian identity which informs their personal practice and at the heart of the gallery is a mission to support and connect with other queer artists and provide a safe space for the exploration of body, sexuality, identity, politics and activism.

The gallery has served as a test bed for over 300 artists and puts a focus on championing artists whose work has, in the past, been censored or silenced.

Pieces and installations are formed by blending live art, sound and site-specific work, making for innovative and boundary-pushing exhibitions

The Whitworth Gallery

The Whitworth Gallery is part of the University of Manchester and houses an extensive collection of over 55,000 pieces of art including paintings, textiles and sculptures.

The gallery offers both historic pieces and a wealth of contemporary art, exploring culture, identity and pertinent societal issues.

The (Un) Defining Queer Exhibition is particularly compelling. Co-led by an intersectional group of people who self-identify as LGBTQIA+, the project sets out to redress historic omissions that have existed as a result of heteronormative museum practice. It contains work by a wealth of exciting artists including David Hockney, Maggie Hambling, Matthew Bamber and Jez Dolan.

In addition to the plethora of art and installations, the gallery also has a stunning, glass-enclosed café. This serves as the perfect place to muse over all the culture you’ve absorbed whilst enjoying the panoramic views of the surrounding park!

The Manchester Gallery

If your artistic tastes lean more towards pre-modern than post-modern, you’ll find an abundance of important historical pieces at the Manchester Gallery.

Although still home to plenty of contemporary pieces, the gallery is best known for its important collection of work representing nineteenth-century British artists, with a particular focus on the Pre-Raphaelites.

There are also some particularly evocative pieces by Manchester’s very own LS Lowry which are well worth seeking out.

If you’re wanting to find out more about art in an informal way, the Manchester Gallery has some fantastic adult programmes such as the Philosophy Café and Art Bites. Everyone is welcome at these sessions and you don’t need to be an art expert to attend. Instead, these events are a great way to simply chat about some of the exhibitions and connect with other art-loving folk.


HOME is so much more than an art gallery. You could spend an entire week there and still not have seen or done everything it has to offer.

The venue merges two former cultural institutions, Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company, and houses two theatres, five cinemas, and a large and flexible gallery space.

The art gallery itself has some exciting exhibitions of contemporary visual art by both emerging and established artists, utilising a wide range of mediums from paintings to interactive digital media.

In addition to the visual art, you'll find theatre performances, dance productions and a range of films from every time period and genre going!

HOME is a fully accessible space and just a really awesome place to hang out, grab a drink or peruse the quirky shops.

The art world can be an intimidating one, particularly if you’re new to the scene. Luckily, Manchester’s galleries remain accessible, inclusive and welcome everyone, even if you don’t know your Manet from Monet!

With fantastic transport links and a central location, it’s also the perfect place to use as a base to spread your artistic wings and soak up some art further afield.

So, whether you want to discover your hidden Weiwei or unleash your inner Lowry, Manchester is certainly a great place to start.

Published: 17-Oct-2023: (7284) Top Stories

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