I attended the preview of the £15 million renovation of the Whitworth Art Galley on Saturday and it is easy to see how this money had been spent. The gallery is absolutely stunning and it was great that the gallery decided to open its doors to it’s members and the local community before the press and even big names in the art world. The photography embargo was officially lifted today – so that the images of the gallery and of the evening could be revealed on social media at the same time.
Galley curator Maria Ballshaw’s speech was inspiring – she was keen to thank all the ‘Friends of the Whitworth,’ some of whom had donated to reach the £15 million target, along with a heritage lottery grant and funding from the University of Manchester. Along with being a little overwhelmed at just how much hard work had been put into the renovation and the positive reaction from the crowds which attended, she was keen to tell us all about artist Cornelia Parker’s use of graphene. The substance, which is just one carbon atom thick, is around a hundred times stronger than steel and was invented right here in Manchester by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who won the Nobel prize in Physics 2010 for its development. Cornelia has carefully taken samples of graphite from several gallery etchings, including one by William Blake, and used it to create graphene, which she will then use to ‘trigger a meteor shower’ over the gallery when it officially opens this Saturday (I assume this will consist of some sort of fireworks display). It will be interesting to see how this turns out, along with the several other performances and exhibits which will be both in the gallery and in the park itself throughout the day on Saturday. From what I have seen so far, I’m sure it will be spectacular, and I’m looking forward to the newly reopened gallery taking its place among the richly cultural and socially inclusive galleries and museums of Manchester.