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An Artist Pays For Manchester Beauty

Raqib Shaw's philanthropy brightens Manchester

Written by . Published on February 22nd 2013.


An Artist Pays For Manchester Beauty
 

RAQIB Shaw’s playful, colourful, shocking, even brutal, show at Manchester Art Gallery is turning heads.

And this is before people have even entered the gallery.

The dominant flower with which Shaw has chosen to decorate the outside of the gallery is wholly appropriate: the narcissus. This is the flower named for the boy who fell in love with his own reflection.

Shaw’s spectacular one-man eponymous exhibition not only demonstrates the usual artist/public gallery relationship but adds something extra.

It adds his own cash.

Shaw himself has reached into his wallet to enable his exhibition to leap out from the gallery with a floral wrap around the boundary wall and through the building’s portico. Confidential can’t remember when an artist, albeit a wealthy one, was so generous.

Flowers at the entranceFlowers at the entrance

True, a decade ago, architect Daniel Libeskind pared back his ideas when only two thirds of the original budget was secured for the Imperial War Museum North. But as far as we’re aware he never spent any of his own money on the site.

Raqib Shaw's motivation behind stumping up cash seems to lie with his long term love of nature and his innate flamboyance - this boy wants to create a stir.

Shaw, who now lives in London, has described  how he ‘grew up in the mountains of Kashmir and was surrounded by beautiful flowers and nature all the time’.

Wrap it lovelyWrap it lovely

Clare Gannaway, the exhibition curator, has noted that using plants and creating a garden as part of Shaw's work is a hallmark. His use of plants and natural materials reflects his personal passions and also the environment he's created in his London studio - where he lives as well as works. 

Maria Balshaw, gallery director on the left, the flamboyant Mr Shaw on the rightMaria Balshaw, gallery director on the left, the flamboyant Mr Shaw on the right

As for the artist's innate flamboyance, this is apparent as soon as the first of his 28 works hoves into view in Manchester Art Gallery. These pieces evoke Old Masters such as Holbein and Bosch, the lavish world of Persian miniatures and Kashmiri and Japanese textiles. 

Shaw's lush workShaw's lush work

They are startling in their detail, unnerving in their content, rich, lush, intense. But the intensity seems turned inward; much of the imagery reflects Shaw’s view of his own nature and it's tortured relationship with the world.

In which case the dominant flower with which Shaw has chosen to decorate the outside of the gallery is wholly appropriate: the narcissus. This is the flower named for the boy who fell in love with his own reflection and came to doom. Much of the violent imagery in Shaw's work could be seen as destructive.

 

Narcissi and othersNarcissi and others

One final point.

A sweet element to the garlanding of Manchester Art Gallery was the timing.

Installation coincided with the felling of the trees in the Peace Garden, fifty metres from the Gallery, as part of the St Peter’s Square masterplan.

The felling has resulted in a welcome opening out of views in the area, but it also meant toppled trees could be given an afterlife. These now provide the lattice through which the flowers and small plants have been woven on the Manchester Art Gallery wall and fence. There's an exquisite poignancy to that. 

Where the trees stood with Art Gallery in the backgroundWhere the trees stood with Art Gallery in the background

Meanwhile the rubberneckers dodge trams on Mosley Street to take pictures of the flowers and the Art Gallery.

Shaw's inimitable style might have also - and surely he knew this would be the case - given his show the best publicity possible. 

Raqib Shaw, 15 February–26 May 2013. Manchester Art Gallery 
Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield 

Floral wrapFloral wrap

Floral WrapFloral Wrap

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Floral wrap on opening nightFloral wrap on opening night

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Sean McGrathFebruary 21st 2013.

Is this going to become a permanent fixture? I'll be fairly disappointed if it isn't, as I had noticed it has made that whole area a hell of a lot nicer.

There's even more added poignancy given the recent petition to get some greenery back into Piccadilly Gardens. They're looking to clad that awful concrete block that depresses me every time it's brutally forced upon my eyes.

Get it signed people! submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/…/45923…

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 22nd 2013.

Piccadilly Gardens wall and beyond, perhaps? Give this man a lottery grant to "floral wrap" the entire city! Exactly what Manchester city centre has been lacking - we've all said it for years. Looks wonderful.

Hero
ChorltongalFebruary 22nd 2013.

I think it looks beautiful. I love going past it on the tram each morning/evening and it has cemented the idea of my going and viewing his works inside too!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Hero
Manc GuyFebruary 22nd 2013.

Couldn't agree more. I walked passed it yesterday. It's looks fanastic and natural, as though it's always been there. Most of it is wire-tied on, so it won't be permanent, but the city would look much different if there was more greenery and colour around the place.

SoapysudsFebruary 22nd 2013.

So we have replaced nature with a piece of so-called art. Sorry, this is what is so sadly wrong with people. They worship false idols, instead of nurturing nature.

J FlagstoneFebruary 22nd 2013.

Soapysuds the trees in the Peace Gardens sat on a site that hadn't had trees for two hundred years prior to them being planted. Cities are for people. That area is better for not having trees. Looks fresher. You people think more about trees than your fellow humans and this forget your humanity.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 15th 2013.

Yes, history shows that buildings have always been more plentiful than trees on the earth. Cities are all buildings and no trees, and nature is all trees and no buildings.

God forbid the two should be mixed. Could you imagine - the good parts of the country brought into the city centre?! What use would that be in calming and relaxing people, helping them to enjoy their life, when they should be working or spending money in shops?

AnonymousMarch 15th 2013.

Yes, history shows that buildings have always been more plentiful than trees on the earth. Cities are all buildings and no trees, and nature is all trees and no buildings.

God forbid the two should be mixed. Could you imagine - the good parts of the country brought into the city centre?! What use would that be in calming and relaxing people, helping them to enjoy their life, when they should be working or spending money in shops?

AnonymousFebruary 24th 2013.

Thought this exhibition was great if positively insane. Like seeing Dali for the first time.

Having read this story I admire him even more.

JonFebruary 25th 2013.

Flagstone, you should know that the whole of Manchester sits on a site which, incredibly enough, had no buildings on it at all for several billion years prior to them being built. For the last few million years of this crazy period, The Trees honestly felt that Manchester was made more for them than for The People (!)

Being a Manchester resident - and a human - I am of course delighted that this gross misapprehension has been challenged and overturned in such a comprehensive fashion in recent years.

I hope The Trees don't get any more funny ideas.

Charlie HulmeFebruary 27th 2013.

Where can I read this 'St Peters Square Masterplan'? I didn't know it had yet been finalised. Another sculpture (not up to the standard of 'Adrift' admittedly) and some commemorative items have been taken away as well as the trees.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Hero
Manc GuyMarch 12th 2013.

The artists' impressions I've seen show the Peace Garden [with the trees and the plaques] will be the new location for the cenotaph monuments, which means future Remembrance Sunday services will need to be re-planned.

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