The University of Manchester’s Whitworth gallery has officially re-opened after a £15million redevelopment, and my oh my, doesn’t it look lovely? A major wedge from the Heritage Lottery Fund helped make this transformation happen, and the job was delivered by McInnes Usher McKnight Architects (MUMA) who were charged with turning the 125-year-old building into a top-tier arts venue for the 21st Century. Central to the project was the addition of an large extension – two new glass and brick wings now reach out into the surrounding parkland, and MUMA also added a large window to the middle of the existing building providing a sight line from the centre through to the outdoors. A grant of nearly £2 million from Arts Council England funded a revamped entrance on Oxford Street and a new Sculpture Terrace, plus there’s a new Art Garden and an Orchard Garden designed by Chelsea gold medallist Sarah Price.
Renowned British contemporary artist Cornelia Parker has been chosen as one of the inaugural exhibitors at the new-look Whitworth, and she starts things off in style with an immense show of new and acclaimed past work. War Room is a massive, site-specific new installation made from the punched out paper left behind from the manufacture of the annual Remembrance Day poppies. Parker’s powerful career-defining Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) is presented here, along with other works that explore themes of deconstruction and material destruction – there’s a work of flattened brass instruments that will make any visiting musician weep.
Other highlights across Whitworth’s ten opening exhibitions include YBA provocateur Sarah Lucas covering the walls of her exhibition space with cigarette breasts from Tits in Space (2000), Francis Bacon’s portrait of friend Lucian Freud joins spearheading the gallery’s own Portraits exhibition, and Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang presenting a vast gunpowder work in the new landscape gallery.