The revamp of one of Manchester’s key arts establishments is a terrific success – the new Whitworth is simply stunning. The building itself is superb – the familiar redbrick facade remains as do the original galleries adjacent to the vestibule but thereafter a magnificent glass extension has doubled the size and created wonderful new spaces. Jo and I dropped in last week with all five kids ranging from a five year old to an eleven year old and we had a great time. We gave the kids an iPhone amongst them and asked them to film and talk through what they were looking at – they just loved that – obviously satisfying that incessant desire to have some electronic device in their clutches but actually the exercise did really helped focus them on what they could see.
The acclaimed artist Cornelia Parker has kick-started the opening – holding court with a major show. And her work absolutely captured the children’s imagination. Her signature piece “Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View” they loved. Through the children’s eyes, a marvellous tale – the artist had commissioned the army to blow up a shed in which she had placed quite ordinary objects. The results quite spectacular – fragments of twisted metal and charred wood suspended from the ceiling with invisible threads hovering above the floor. Interspersed are items that the kids loved picking out – a hot water bottle, bike wheels, watering can, colander… still recognisable but just “exploded.”
Another gallery held the work of Cai Guo Qiang (famous for his firework displays for the 2008 Beijing Olympics) – a large pond of shallow water extending across much of the room, reflecting the 45metre-long gunpowder drawing on the wall. Admittedly it was a task and a half to keep the children out of the water but another hit nonetheless!
Lots of dramatic modern sculptural pieces dominate throughout. Plenty for kids to stare at, muse over and then move on…. Perhaps not to the Sarah Lucas exhibition…! We stumbled in accidentally – mostly went over their heads but we moved on quickly!
For those of you with babies and toddlers there’s a terrific timetable of activities on every month for you and your little ones to take part in ranging from sensory art and music experiences to the fab sounding Early Years Atelier where the focus is on experimenting with wet, messy materials. Great fun I’m sure.
We did a pit stop for cake and coffee in the fabulous new cafe which was very nice but be warned it does get very busy in peak periods so choose your time carefully or be prepared to wait!
Exhibitions here will constantly change. What’s not going to change is our fab new Whitworth – a wonderful and inspiring resource for us all.
Gallery & Shop Open Mon-Weds 10am-5pm, Thurs 10am-9pm, Fri-Sun 10am-5pm
Cafe open Mon-Fri 8am-9.30pm, Sat 9am-9.30pm, Sun 10am-7pm
Nb: For a temporary period only, the cafe is currently opening from 9.30am
The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M15 6ER
Tel: 0161 275 7450 whitworth.manchester.ac.uk