Manchester Art Gallery

Free

The Manchester Art Gallery displays a collection of Victorian art including works by the Pre-Raphaelites and it also features an excellent decorative art collection.

Two of the art gallery’s three adjoining buildings were designed by Sir Charles Barry, the architect who is best known for designing the Palace of Westminster and Highclere Castle.

What to see at the Manchester Art Gallery

The gallery has a permanent collection of over 25,000 objects including more than 2,000 oil paintings and 3,000 watercolours. The Manchester Art Gallery is particularly noted for its collection of art from the Victorian era, especially Victorian decorative arts and paintings from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The gallery also has some works by French impressionists including a Cézanne and several works by Pierre Adolphe Valette.

Highlights of the permanent collection include The Sirens and Ulysses (1837) by William Etty, The Hireling Shepherd (1851) and The Scapegoat (1854–1855), both by William Holman Hunt, Work (1865) by Ford Madox Brown and Hylas and the Nymphs (1896) by John William Waterhouse, which created a controversy with claims of censorship and puritanism when it was removed from display for one week in January 2018.

The Scapegoat (1854–55 by William Holman Hunt. Hunt painting two versions of this painting and you can see the other copy at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight near Liverpool.
The Scapegoat (1854–55) by William Holman Hunt. Hunt painting two versions of this painting and you can see the other copy at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight near Liverpool.
Hylas and the Nymphs (1896) by John William Waterhouse
Hylas and the Nymphs (1896) by John William Waterhouse

Temporary exhibitions at the Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester Art Gallery also has a programme of temporary exhibitions. Current and planned exhibitions include:

Friends, Family and Other Animals
Friends, Family and Other Animals (until 24 March 2024) is comprised of artworks relocated from other sites and gallery spaces as part of Manchester Art Gallery’s programme of building repairs with this display exploring artists’ friendships along with works focusing on animal and family subjects from the 19th to 21st centuries.

Unpicking Couture
The Unpicking Couture exhibition (until 12 January 2025) explores the intersection of fashion and emotions, emphasising dopamine dressing for joy and a focus on repair and restoration to encourage contemplation of a garment’s lifecycle and value. Featuring creations by influential designers such as Christian Dior, Elsa Schiaparelli, Azzedine Alaïa and Alexander McQueen, each outfit signifies a groundbreaking moment in fashion.

Trading Station: How Hot Drinks Shape Our Lives
The Trading Station exhibition (until 31 January 2025) explores how hot drinks such as coffee, chocolate and tea have transformed our day-to-day lives. The exhibition also touches on social issues such as connections to slavery and colonisation and includes artefacts covering four centuries including paintings and objects made from silver, glass and porcelain.

Out of the Crate
The Out of the Crate exhibition (until 31 December 2025) looks at Manchester’s publicly owned sculpture collection and includes a behind-the-scenes look at the collection’s works that are normally in storage and not on public display.

Visiting the Manchester Art Gallery

The Manchester Art Gallery is on Mosley Street right in the centre of Manchester. It is only a two-minute walk to Manchester Town Hall and Manchester Central Library, the Central Retail District is a five-minute walk away and Spinningfields is a 10-minute walk. The St Peter’s Square Metrolink tram stop is only a one minute walk from the art gallery.

If you’re visiting with children, the gallery’s Clore Art Studio is an interactive family space with activities for children.

The gallery is fully wheelchair-accessible.

Admission to the gallery is free, although there may be admission charges for some temporary exhibitions.

The Gallery Café has an excellent breakfast and lunch menu created by chef Mary-Ellen McTague that features a pay-as-much-as-feel children’s menu.

Free Wi-Fi wireless internet access is available in the atrium and cafe and is also accessible from some of the galleries.

Most people spend 1–2 hours visiting the gallery.

Amenities
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Wheelchair access
  • Cafe/restaurant
  • Gift shop

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