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Bad public art in Manchester and one that's good

Why is so much of the public art on display in Manchester city centre so awful?

If you've ever taken a walk through the centre of Chicago, you'll know the difference it makes to a city when they get their public art right. There are pieces by Picasso, Matisse, Anish Kapoor's famous Cloud Gate, the 'bean' where a million photos have been taken of people reaching for their own reflection.

Manchester is a great city. We get so much right. Culturally, we are an internationally significant place, our art galleries crammed with magnificent work. But when it comes to public art, we just can't seem to compete.

So here are nine awful examples of getting it wrong, and one stunning glimmer of hope.

Adrift
Rob Martin
1/10

Adrift

When the newly refurbished Central Library re-opened recently, the public space around it had this plonked in it. Made in 1907 by John Cassidy, this depiction of humanity adrift on a sea of life, would have been better drifting off all together.

Alan Turing Memorial
Rob Martin
2/10

Alan Turing Memorial

In Sackville Park next to Canal Street sits a statue of Alan Turing with a plaque which rightly proclaims him as 'Father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime codebreaker, victim of prejudice.' All true. Shame about the sculpture.

Archimedes
Rob Martin
3/10

Archimedes

Made by Thomas W. Dagnall and unveiled in September of 1990, the statue in the grounds of the University shows the great thinker arising from his bath as he has his 'eureka' moment. Looks more like he's having a constipated moment.

The Beacon of Hope
Rob Martin
4/10

The Beacon of Hope

As a monument to those who have died of AIDS, it's a shame that this Sackville Park artwork has become more of a beacon to litter, the area leading up to the structure resembling the entrance to a swimming pool. A dirty one.

Chopin Memorial Monument
Rob Martin
5/10

Chopin Memorial Monument

As a symbol of the friendship between Poland and the UK, this work showing Chopin gazing at his muse whilst a Polish eagle flies around is well intentioned but looks like a kid made it. Out of poo.

Life Cycle
Rob Martin
6/10

Life Cycle

Commissioned to coincide with a conference on the environment in 1995, Life Cycle by George Wylie greets you as you depart from Deansgate train station. It's enough to make you turn around and get back on the the train.

The Molly House Mural
Rob Martin
7/10

The Molly House Mural

Gays. Renowned for a sense of style, visual flare and good taste. Inside, Molly House exemplifies this notion, with its sophisticated look, carefully chosen beverages and considered soundtracks. Outside, their newly created mural totally shits on this myth. 

Oxford Road Train Station
Rob Martin
8/10

Oxford Road Train Station

As part of the improvements to the station in 1993, a piece of public sculpture was created to welcome visitors to the city. Sadly, it looks like a long thin desk tidy sitting on some stacked up beer mats.

Vimto
Rob Martin
9/10

Vimto

Manchester. The birthplace of the computer, of the suffragette movement and of the industrial revolution. World changing things, all. Really putting us on the map. Oh, and Vimto.

Ishinki Touchstone
Rob Martin
10/10

Ishinki Touchstone

At least there's one magnificent piece of public art in the city centre - the Ishinki Touchstone outside Bridgewater Hall from 1996. Kan Yasuda's quite beautiful sculpture, a calming, sensual pebble, shows that public art doesn't have to be poor art.

Comments

10 comments
Trish C
Trish C

Gays .. it that how we are to be known???

vivien S
vivien S

Sorry, the pebble is beautiful, just in the wrong space.  This space needs a big Alan Jones dancer in colour.  The rest of it is just dreadful.  Yes, Manchester gets it very wrong. Vivien Starr

No T
No T

The pebble is crap! Walk in the mountains and see big stones any day. Most of the art shown serves only those wishing to say how grand they are to be sophisticated enough to appreciate them.


Manchester art is the blood sweat and tears of the poor paid workers who built it's rich empires.



Alan S
Alan S

"Alan Turing with a plaque which rightly proclaims him as Father of computer science"


Not true. Read Simon Lavington's book on Turing.


Archimedes: looks like Fred Elliott. 

Ironic.

Michael B
Michael B

It really is all down to a matter of taste. I quite like the pebble outside the Bridgewater Hall but some may describe it as a dying slug. I will say though that I dislike most of the examples here.

Lynn C
Lynn C

I love the Vimto monument!  Colourful, a bit out of the ordinary and not taking life too seriously. A bit like Mancunians.

Chrissy B
Chrissy B

I think this one is actually the worst of the 10!

Red B
Red B

I guess its down to the commissioner's find them and fire them.


Red B
Red B

Remember the B of the Bang? 


Red B
Red B

Manchester's public art is its buildings. From Ancoats, Northern Quarter, Portland Street, right down to Castlefield, the architecture uniquely reflects Manchester's heritage and direction.