Worldwide icon-chevron-right Europe icon-chevron-right United Kingdom icon-chevron-right England icon-chevron-right Manchester icon-chevron-right 'Grayson's Art Club' exhibition is open now in Manchester and it's a joy
Grayson Perry in crotchet dress with wig and handbag inside gallery space
Photograph: Andrew Brooks 'Grayson's Art Club' comes to Manchester Art Gallery

'Grayson's Art Club' exhibition is open now in Manchester and it's a joy

Grayson Perry's postponed exhibition welcomes visitors back to Manchester Art Gallery and we couldn't be more excited

By Rob Martin
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Despite the ease of lockdown restrictions that are now in force, you still might feel the need to tread with caution. After all, it's been a while since we've had the chance to enjoy communal experiences together. For some, it's going to have to be something pretty special to get us out of our new routine.

‘Grayson's Art Club’ at Manchester Art Gallery is the best reason by far to get out of the house right now. 

If any single piece of lockdown TV got us through the last year it was 'Grayson's Art Club'. In each episode, Grayson and Philippa Perry shared their home and artistic practice with us, gently encouraging the nation to get creative and submit our own pieces of art, inspired by our own lockdown experiences.

Not only did the programme cement the artist’s reputation as a national treasure, but it also gave so many of us something to do, turning isolation into art.

A table of little cartoonish figures made from plasticine

Photograph: Alex Robinson 

The resulting exhibition, mixing chosen works from all over the country created by the public, with celebrity contributions from talents as diverse as Joe Lycett and Maggi Hambling, was due to open at Manchester Art Gallery in 2020, but Covid put a stop to all that.

Until now.

At last, the gallery opens its doors again, according to current guidelines, presenting one of the most highly anticipated exhibitions in recent memory. And it's an absolute treat.

If you did watch the show on TV, there's enormous pleasure to be had in recognising some of the work on display, immediately bringing to mind the people who created them and the stories they told about them. Much like the art on display, some of these recollections are funny, some are touching, some make are unexpectedly and powerfully moving, reflecting what a bizarre time we've all had of it lately.

Pieces like ‘Lockdown Birds’ by Paul Green, exquisitely made out of wire, Hannah Grace Deller's joyful photograph, ‘Dog Show’ and, perhaps the star of the exhibition, Alex Robinson's ‘Computer World’ clay figures, all bring a beaming smile to the face. Even if it is hidden by a mask. Others like ‘Home is where the (he)art is', a collage by Simran and Mandish Khebbal, remind you of art's power to help towards healing the pain of loss.

“'Dog
Photograph: Hannah Grace Deller

None of the selected pieces look out of place alongside a beautiful Maggi Hambling painting, a crazy Noel Fielding creation, a delightful Harry Hill carving.

And if you didn't watch the show, it doesn't matter a bit because the exhibition, as well as the experience of being back inside an actual art gallery, make this the best reason to get out of the house for months.

It's an exhibition which has already taken a special place in our hearts, so it's a great coup for the city to host 'Grayson's Art Club' for the first time.

'I could not be happier with Manchester Art Gallery, the venue for the Art Club exhibition; it will be in a people’s palace of culture. All the artists who appeared on our TV series put in a lot of skill, thought and feeling into their works and I am so proud that they will get the opportunity to see their art hanging in this grand, nearly 200 year old institution,' says Grayson.

We couldn't agree more.

Open now until Sunday October 31. www.manchesterartgallery.org


In the mood for more art? These great Manchester art galleries have got you covered

Whitworth Art Gallery
Photograph: Shutterstock

Whitworth Art Gallery

Art Galleries

‘Gathering of strangers’ reads the neon lights above the Whitworth Art Gallery, and it’s this ethereal, sublime atmosphere that carries throughout the venue. Following a major refurbishment, and extending through its existing space into Whitworth Park itself, walls are replaced with floor-to-ceiling windows, while the café now seemingly levitates among the trees. It all helps to frame the artwork, varied and inclusive as it is.

Manchester Art Gallery
Photograph: Shutterstock

Manchester Art Gallery

Art Galleries

Smack dab in the middle of the city sits on oasis of calm in the grand shape of Manchester’s main art gallery, housing a superb collection alongside temporary exhibitions. There’s always a stellar line-up, but recently we enjoyed a free Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, part of a nationwide project seeking to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his death.

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The Lowry
Photograph: Shutterstock

The Lowry

Art Arts centres

Like a huge glass and steel ship rising out of the once-derelict docks of Salford Quays, the Lowry opened in April 2000 as the Millennium Project for the Arts and has gone from strength to strength, recently announcing a £1 million private donation that has secured plans for further development. The venue – named after the great English artist L.S. Lowry, who spent much of his life in Manchester and Salford – is home to the largest collection of paintings and drawings by its namesake. The gallery spaces present a rotating collection of his art alongside the work of other artists, from Maggi Hambling to Spencer Tunick.  

Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art
Photograph: Michael Pollard

Centre For Chinese Contemporary Art

Art Galleries

This small but perfectly formed gallery showcases the best of Chinese visual art and culture in the Northern Quarter. In addition to being home to a roster of boundary-pushing work, the centre hosts experimental, hands-on workshops regularly (check out the 3D nail design salon) and a series of engaging after-hours talks. The best part? The centre is in the middle of the Northern Quarter, surrounded by brilliant bars and cafés you’d be remiss not to step into after your visit.

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HOME
Photograph: Shutterstock

HOME

Art Film and video

HOME merges two former cultural institutions, Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company, under one multi-million-pound roof. Visitors could happily get lost in here for days as the space is home – that’s right, HOME – to two theatres, five cinemas, and plenty of places to eat, drink, shop and hang out. Art-wise, it’s got a large and flexible gallery space that’s always free to enter and often hosts talks from the artists themselves.

Rogue Studios
Photograph: Shutterstock

Rogue Studios

Rogue Studios are heroes on the Manchester arts scene, and the city was shocked when they were forced to move from their old city-centre premises following its purchasing by developers. Worry not: with the help of City Council and Arts Council England, the art fiends set up a new home within a former school building. During open studio events, guests get to see the artists at work. Also keep an eye out for an array of sales, where you’ll be able to get your hands on some affordable art.

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Salford Museum & Art Gallery

Art Galleries

Close to Salford University and in the grounds of Peel Park lies Salford Museum & Art Gallery, opened in 1850 as the very first ‘unconditionally free’ public library in the UK. Now you can wander its rooms and marvel at the fantastic collection of artworks, largely Victorian, on display. Current exhibitions tend to be rooted in the institution’s Salford surroundings.

Islington Mill
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/travelmag.com

Islington Mill

Based in an old cotton spinning mill, this multi-purpose arts venue in Salford is an ever-evolving arts space and community hub with a DIY ethos. More than 50 businesses and 100 artists are based at Islington Mill, which occasionally hosts events spotlighting the city’s up-and-coming art talent. Look out, too, for club nights and interactive exhibitions.

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Simeon Barclay: Life Room at the Holden Gallery, Manchester School of Art
Photograph: Helena Hunt

Holden Gallery

The Manchester School of Art is one of the most respected art universities in the country and the Holden Gallery is its contemporary exhibition space. There’s also a neat little shop where you can buy limited-edition zines and artwork press. Don’t miss out on the Degree Show in early summer, a raucous, must-see celebration of the work of all final-year students.

Castlefield Gallery

Art Galleries

Tucked down a side street and easily missed, Castlefield Gallery is devoted to the development of emerging talent within contemporary art. The gallery was threatened with closure for a while but relaunched in 2012 with a strong programme and renewed vigour, making it a vibrant hub for contemporary artists and gallery-goers seeking something unusual. There are regular events and some of the shows are commercial, so you could snap up a bargain if you’ve got an eye for talent.

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oldham gallery
Photograph: Oldham Gallery

Gallery Oldham

Art Galleries

Gallery Oldham is a combination of many things – it’s a gallery, museum and archive all in one. Photography, geology, decorative art and artefacts from all over the world are on display here, while kids can get involved with free workshops like lantern-making classes and craft sessions every first Saturday of the month. All of this makes Gallery Oldham one of the best family-friendly destinations outside the city centre.

Siop Shop
Photograph: Courtesy TripAdvisor.com

Siop Shop

How did a café end up on this list? Although your eyes are likely to be drawn away from the artwork by the tempting line-up of doughnuts and cakes, Siop Shop does host exhibitions by top folk in the Manchester art scene. A recent highlight was ‘Pour Form’ – a selection of acrylic vases, pots and portraits by Rob Bailey.

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Artzu Gallery

Art Galleries

Artzu is a commercial gallery but you won’t feel awkward or under any obligation to buy anything once you’ve been welcomed by the uber-friendly staff here. You can go in and browse, you can ask questions about work you don’t understand and you can enjoy the venue without having to panic about buying a £1,000 watercolour the size of a postcard.

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