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.
Temporary exhibitions at the Manchester Art Gallery
Manchester Art Gallery also has a programme of temporary exhibitions. Current and planned exhibitions include:
Rethinking the Grand Tour
This exhibition (until 27 November 2023) looks back at the Grand Tour, an early form of tourism that was popular among the wealthy during the 1700s and 1800s. During this 200-year period, wealthy people from Britain travelled throughout Europe and as far as the Middle East and Asia bringing back artefacts as souvenirs that have made their way into museums and private collections in many of Britain’s grand country houses. The exhibition looks at the legacy of the Grand Tour with a focus on the perspective of the place where these artefacts originated.
Out of the Crate
The Out of the Crate exhibition (until 31 December 2024) 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.
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.
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.