Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Days out with the kids: The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester

If I was not a writer, I would just write one word here: Go. And you should just do it.

But one word won't do. So I will tell you some things about the Whitworth in Manchester. Firstly, there is a beautiful textile exhibition there until March 2016. It catches you off-guard. It stuns you. It can basically be summed up in that beautiful set of peacock-feather giant pompoms above. It places pattern, texture and colour together in ways that are intuitive rather than necessarily chronological or thematic. I stood nose-to-glass like a child without pocket-money gazing longingly into a sweet-shop. My children ran around but, unusually for me, I can't say I really noticed.

And then there's the art. Oh my. The Farrow & Ball-esque paint on the walls was beautiful in itself. But then they socked me in the eyeballs with paintings thrown together without care to date or genre, but with full-on appreciation of what picture speaks to which. Ignore the small children in the picture below (yes, they're mine, and yes, they're pretending to be caterpillars, and no, I have no idea why!) and just pretend you're that lady and, like her (I imagine), you're in heaven. Sketches and paintings, artists that are familiar to you mixed with those you wish you had heard of before. Installations like the whole, huge room full of vacant poppies, the perforated paper from the printers hung like a tent of grateful sorrow. A brass band of instruments flattened and hung like a 2D mobile. The most peaceful 45 meter long landscape drawing made from the powder of war. I can't be effusive enough. 

So, most of what I've said already is only applicable to you if a) you're on your own in your art gluttony or, b) your husband has very sweetly noticed you're more than a little bowled over and is watching your children. But, hang on: this is a child-friendly gallery. I'll tell you why: there's a fabulous room (the Clore Gallery) where you'll find all sorts of crafting and art for children to join in. Their walls of childrens' work are just as absorbing as the gallery walls. And they have art picnics which - I know, I know, heaven to an artophile mother - consist of a hamper full of drawing and collaging supplies that your children can take around the gallery and use while you go a little art-doolally. And we did, children and mother alike. If, like me, you've taken a break from art galleries while you mother your children, don't. Take them with you. Take them to the Whitworth.

Not convinced yet? The Whitworth is set in a park where your children can play and you can go on a sculpture trail. There's an art garden, Artist Sundays, art clubs and parties... I won't link to it all here. Just go to the website or,  better still, go there yourself. As a born and bred Londoner, I hope you can understand the gravity of what I'm about to say: for me, the Whitworth fills the place in my heart where the Tate used to be. And that was a very large, very precious hole to fill.
Sorry, I'm conscious that the photos I've used are more than a little rubbish. I'd go back to take better ones, but not only can I not afford a dSLR to do so, to be completely honest I can't afford the train fare right now either. So, go yourself, take better pictures than I did, and then tell me about them. I'll come and look at your pictures. They'll keep my arty heart ticking over until I can go back again.

And before I go, Raaaaaarrrrr!!!! Because after our picnic in the car (it was pouring down), we made a dash to the Manchester Museum up the road (our provincial version of The British Museum) for an hour of "Where are the real froggies? Let's go in a lift! Look, a dinosaur! I want to see the bows and arrows before we go!" Etc. It wasn't really stop-and-take-a-picture pace but the boys loved it. We went before and enjoyed it more fully but even this little whistlestop tour ticked the boxes.

1 comment:

  1. Great post - you inspired me to take my son to a museum/gallery today and I'm so glad I did!


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