The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund Gifts Work Worth £20,000 To Manchester Art Gallery As It Celebrates 200 Years In The City
Six works of contemporary art with a combined value of £20,840 have been gifted to Manchester Art Gallery by The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund as the gallery celebrates its 200th anniversary.
Founded by Executive Chairman of Manchester Art Fair and The Manchester Contemporary, Thom Hetherington, in 2017, The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund is the largest philanthropic art fund in the North.
This year’s Fund, created by a group of businesspeople and individuals passionate about their city, is the largest to date bringing the total value of work acquired for Manchester Art Gallery since the Fund’s inception to £52,000 and the total number of pieces of work to 24.
The six pieces, by artists Jen Orpin, Ruth Murray, Faisal Hussain, Lesley Hilling, Ben Goring and Stacey Foster, were chosen at the 14th edition of The Manchester Contemporary, with Manchester Art Gallery’s Senior Creative Lead Inbal Livne and Senior Curator Natasha Howes steering the rigorous selection process.
“One of the things we’re thinking about when we collect is storytelling and how these pieces can communicate with our visitors. So, with everything that we have bought, we’re aways thinking about how it might be a point of discussion, how it might inspire them to go and make a piece themselves,” said Natasha Howes, Senior Curator at Manchester Art Gallery.
“All the pieces acquired are very different and we will show them in quite different ways. We’ll probably show some of the pieces in our children’s gallery, the Lion’s Den, and will display them quite low down so that they can really engage with them. Others will be displayed in our collection galleries, in dialogue with some of our historic pieces,” said Howes.
One of the recipients of the prestigious art fund and thrilled to be recognised was Manchester based artist and co-founder of gallery Rogue Women, Jen Orpin. Her work , ‘No War But Class War – M60,’ a landscape painting of a motorway bridge, plays on the idea of landscapes and journeys, and the emotional connections we develop with our surroundings.
In something of a triumphant moment for the gallery co-owner, a second work from Rogue Women, a large and impactful painting of a woman lying amongst some twigs and branches in the landscape, by artist Ruth Murray, was also acquired.
The piece will be added to Manchester Art Gallery’s pre-raphaelite collection, a collection which, to date, sees the work of a lot of male artists and to which Ruth’s work will be a valuable addition.
Speaking on the news, Orpin said: “Out of the six pieces selected two are from Rogue Women, and whilst I’m delighted to have been personally recognised alongside Ruth, I would have been chuffed if any of our artists had been. For Rogue Women it’s just amazing, it just emphasises that giving women a platform and shining a spotlight on promoting women in the arts is really, really important.
“I moved to Manchester in 1993 and have been practicing here ever since. To have my work, but most of all work from Rogue Women, recognised by The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund and to appear in Manchester Art Gallery’s permanent collection, means so much to me, it’s just the pinnacle of your art practice. It’s what you want to do, where you want to be. It’s just the thing you hope for and dream is going to happen. And when it happens it’s just amazing. I’m totally pumped.”
Joining this year’s list of winners is Birmingham artist, Faisal Hussain. His work, a powerful sculpture featuring an illuminated plastic bollard displaying the words ‘it may be nothing, but it could be something,’ invites conversation around how authorities try to control people using these types of barriers and how people stereotype people of different ethnicities.
The purchase of Sphere, by artist Lesley Hilling, further adds to Manchester Art Gallery’s collection of sculptures, and is, Howes describes, “like a cabinet of curiosities, featuring lots of amazing items such as a thimble, a photograph and magnifying glass, inserted amongst lots of pieces of wood.”
The fifth recipient of The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund is artist Ben Goring, represented by Venture Arts, a gallery dedicated to working with disabled and neurodiverse artists. Goring’s work, a flat ceramic featuring intricate markings, was inspired by his personal influences: football, music and festival culture, rich with fluidity and movement.
Completing this year’s selection is the work of Stacey Foster, represented by The pARTnership based in Blackpool and a creative and professional development project being delivered by Grundy Art Gallery, The New Langdale learning disability day service in Blackpool, contemporary artist Tina Dempsey and Venture Arts in Manchester. The artist, who has limited mobility but very strong dexterity in her hands, is recognised for her mini sculptures made from polymer clay, which she moulds in a very specific shape. The brightly coloured originals are then cast in bronze, with Manchester Art Gallery acquiring three for the gallery’s permanent collection.
“It means the work is there for longevity and that the artist is represented forever”, said Grundy Art Gallery Curator Paulette Brien.
Speaking on behalf of The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund, Hetherington, said: “The historical collections of Manchester Art Gallery were built on the philanthropy of the men and women who made their fortunes in Manchester during its industrial heyday, yet it felt as if that link between entrepreneurism and culture had weakened over time. But the success of the fund proves a sense of patronage and civic pride amongst Manchester’s leading business figures was alive and well, it just needed to be reconnected to the gallery. Our fund members want to leave their positive mark upon their own city, and the fund is certainly doing that on an ever-increasing scale.”
Howes added: “It’s our 200th anniversary this year and it’s quite incredible to think that when the gallery started, it was the Royal Manchester Institution. It was a kind of member’s club, you had to pay to come in and they’d collect big paintings by famous artists.
“The collection was given to the city in the 1880’s and since then we’ve been a free public art gallery. So, what’s fantastic to us, because we don’t have an acquisitions budget anymore, we can’t go out and buy whatever we like, we have to fundraise for everything, is to receive this gift. The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund is just an amazing way for us to be able to come and buy the most contemporary work so that we can still be relevant to the people today.”
The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund is the largest philanthropic art fund in the North. Since inception in 2017 the fund has gifted 24 pieces of work worth a combined £53,000 to Manchester Art Gallery.
Members of The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund 2023 are Christian Anderton & Sarah Moulson, Lisa Ashurst, Pepin Aslett, Jo & Tom Bloxham, Netanya Clixby, Gill Crook, James & Katie Eden, Mark Garner, Mark & Toni Hawthorn, Thom Hetherington & Sophie Helm, Emma Holden, Nic Konig, Alison Loveday, David Blake & Lucy Noone Blake, Jeremy & Jane Roberts, Howard Ratcliffe & Melissa Ratcliffe, Jon Sharples, Adnan & Carmel Siddiqi and Martyn & Valerie Torevell.