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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?
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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.

Public Art: Adrift
Rob Martin

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.

Public art - Alan Turing
Rob Martin

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.

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Public Art - Archimedes
Rob Martin

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.

Public Art - the Beacon of Hope
Rob Martin

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.

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Public Art - Chopin
Rob Martin

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.

Public Art - Deansgate Bike
Rob Martin

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.

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Molly House Mural
Rob Martin

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. 

Public Art - Oxford Road Train Station
Rob Martin

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.

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Public Art - Vimto
Rob Martin

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

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.

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