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Whitworth Art Gallery wins £8m

Good news at last: 'one of the most important galleries in the country'

Published on February 20th 2011.

Whitworth Art Gallery wins £8m

Maria Balshaw is sounding excited, she should be.

The director of the Whitworth Art Gallery has led the team, that’s won the money, that’ll transform the city’s art scene.

We want to bring artists of the highest international calibre here. This is the right time for the Whitworth. Our recent work has proved that there is room in Manchester for the very best quality.

£8m of Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is on its way to make the Whitworth, as Balshaw says, “one of the most important in the country and give it another 100 years of life. It will develop the Whitworth in ways we can’t predict, mean we can work harder to bring in more and more exciting exhibitions, gather more international artists to us.”

She might be ecstatic about the outcome, part of a £12m package, but she wasn’t totally surprised.“I think we had worked so closely with HLF and with other partners that we knew it was a really strong bid. It met all the criteria for the HLF. Key was our desire to be open to all the communities of Manchester.

“The Whitworth’s position is very special, on the edge of the city centre with Moss Side and Rusholme nearby, the University as well.

“This scheme opens up the gallery and the adjacent Whitworth Park to the local communities, visitors and workers. HLF want to get more people into galleries nationally. We’ll be able to do that here with a beautiful extension.”

If Balshaw had to highlight one of the most important aspects of how the new Whitworth will look, what would it be?

“Where do I begin? A lovely feature is the way the design from MUMA pushes the gallery into the trees of the Park, that will really stand out. The cafe for example will be twice as big and will sit amongst the trees.”

We already love Peter Booth’s tiny cafe in the Whitworth and his other venues such as Gabriel’s Kitchen, so we look forward to some great food in the new space.

Balshaw continues, “The extension will give us 30% more space, learning studios and massively increase the number of kids we can bring through. Instead of our 55,000 objects being hidden away, they will be housed in collection stores visible from the park, visitors can come in and look up an Albrecht Durer print or a William Blake right away.”

As for the programming, won’t it put pressure on the Gallery to up their game? Given the calibre of recent work, that won’t be easy.

“That’s a welcome pressure,” says Balshaw. “We want to bring artists of the highest international calibre here. This is the right time for the Whitworth. Our recent work has proved that there is room in Manchester for the very best quality. Working with renowned figures such as Maria Abramovic and now Mary Kelly has shown we can be serious and light-hearted, appeal to families and children and art critics.”

So when does work get under way?

“We start digging in September and open in 2013.”

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

Charles BFebruary 18th 2011.

That's lifted my whole week. Well done to a marvellous gallery. Can't wait

James UFebruary 18th 2011.

This is a wonderful gallery and this is great news

Ali McGowanFebruary 18th 2011.

Hear, hear. Congratulations to all involved!

BenedictFebruary 18th 2011.

Great news, but what's going on with the photo of the Director? Is she St Maria already?

Bernadette11172February 23rd 2011.

Fantastic news, been going to the Whitworth since I was a little girl and always loved it, well deserved.

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