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The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund

The UK’s most ambitious philanthropic art fund

The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund was founded by Thom Hetherington, and its members are made up of local businesspeople and entrepreneurs who are passionate about their city and its cultural heritage. The art fund seeks to support rising artists, providing them with a platform through which to achieve critical acclaim and greater popularity. 

Works are selected by Manchester Art Gallery curators and displayed by the gallery and then kept in their permanent collection, owned and enjoyed the people of Manchester in perpetuity.  Since 2017 the fund has raised over £50,000 and gifted 24 pieces of work, acquired from galleries at The Manchester Contemporary art fair, to Manchester Art Gallery. 

2023 fund members 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.

Art Fund News

“We usually acquire artworks through the generosity of gifts and bequests or by applying to trusts and foundations for support, but to have a fund available where we can make immediate decisions about what to buy, is unique. It enables us to collect with intention and expand the city's collection with artworks by the most engaging emerging artists, ensuring that the gallery stays relevant to today's times. The paintings, ceramics, drawings, photographs, and sound works which we have bought over the last six years are significant pieces and have been shown in dialogue with the historic collection. In our anniversary year, as we look back on 200 years of collecting, The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund affords us the opportunity to grow the civic collection for future generations.”

Natasha Howes, Senior Curator and head of the selection panel at Manchester Art Gallery

Building on Manchester Art Gallery’s incredible collection

Many of us will have walked around Manchester Art Gallery and marvelled at the works on display from its permanent collection. Priceless world class art, right there on the walls for us all to enjoy entirely free of charge. But how many of us have ever stopped to consider who initially paid for all these masterpieces, which are owned by the gallery and thus the city of Manchester, and therefore by you.

Although some pieces are acquired through corporate donations or philanthropic trusts, much of Manchester Art Gallery’s incredible collection – think particularly of its pre-Rapahelites and Valettes – was bequeathed in the Victorian era by proud local industrialists, who wished to give something back to their home city. Nowadays it is harder to ensure that the collection remains current and contemporary, with new works added on a continual basis.

As I sat on the board of the gallery and also ran Manchester Art Fair, one of the country’s most prestigious art fairs, I decided, on a whim, to establish ‘The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund’. In effect this creates a pot of cash, donated by a number of private individuals, for the gallery’s curators to spend acquiring new works from the ‘The Manchester Contemporary’ section of Manchester Art Fair, which features critically engaged works from emerging artists.

In June the latest works selected for the fund will be hung. Pieces by artists Benoit Aubard, Juno Calypso and Ian McIntyre will be carefully sited amongst the permanent exhibitions, responding to the historical masterpieces they sit alongside. The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund has grown each year, and by the time Manchester Art Fair happens this October it will be one of the largest such art acquisitions funds in the country.

One particular encounter inspired me in all this. It was seeing ‘A Basket of Roses’, an oil painting by French still life artist Henri Fantin-Latour, on the walls of Manchester Art Gallery as part of the New Order exhibition, True Faith. As any fan would know the image appears on the cover of their 1983 album Power, Corruption and Lies. But here was the original, with a small gold plaque saying that it was bequeathed to The National Gallery by a Mrs M.J. Yates, in 1923.

Could she ever have imagined that the piece she had generously given would still be being shown almost a hundred years later, and in such a contemporary context? What a legacy. In effect the Manchester Contemporary Art Fund isn’t just gifting vital and inspiring contemporary art to the people of Manchester, it is buying a kind of immortality for the members who fund it, and who could put a price on that?

Thom Hetherington, Founder, The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund

Would you like to join The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund?


Title: No Class No War
Artist: Jen Orpin 
Gallery: Rogue Women, Manchester

Title: Ruth Murray
Artist: Duff
Gallery: Rogue Women, Manchester

Title: "It May be Nothing but it could be Something" 2022
Artist: Faisal Hussein
Gallery: Pallet Show 12, Manchester

Title: Sphere
Artist: Lesley Hilling
Gallery: Arcana, Edinburgh

Title: Untitled
Artist: Stacey Foster
Gallery: The pARTnership, Blackpool

Title: Ceramic Tile
Artist: Ben Goring
Gallery: Venture Arts, Manchester


Title: Cabbage
Artist: Charlotte Dawson
Gallery: ABS Projects, Blackpool
Title: Jar (Dandelions after DH Lawrence)
Artist: Simon Bayliss
Gallery: PINK, Manchester
Title: Sea Fruit
Artist: Jamie Holman
Gallery: A Modest Show
Title: Bread & Water 2
Artist: Mary Griffths
Gallery: A Modest Show


Title: Ceramic Teapot
Artist: Simon Bayliss
Gallery: PINK
Title: The Cross
Artist: Mario Lanton
Gallery: Lariot Collective
Title: Zitye: Second Hand Kings
Artist: Masimba Hwati
Gallery: The Second Act


This year during lockdown, the fund was use as sponsorship of Grayson’s Art Club exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. The exhibition features works selected by artist Grayson Perry during Grayson’s Art Club, the popular Channel 4 TV series. All the works on show are very personal visual representations of lockdown, made by the public, well-known artists and celebrities.

Thom Hetherington, CEO of The Manchester Contemporary, said, “Although the fund was initially established to acquire works for public institutions these are unprecedented times, so we remained open to new opportunities which remained true to our ethos of supporting artists and galleries, and ensuring people in the North had access to world class contemporary art. When we heard about the investment required to ensure that Grayson Perry’s Art Club could be delivered within the city we spoke to the members and they were in instant agreement that we should support it.”


Title: Marker 210 & Marker 213
Artist: Nina Chua
Gallery: Workplace Foundation
Title: Some Questions About Us
Artist: Mark Titchner
Gallery: Bethlem Gallery
Title: Toothache
Artist: Jane Benson
Gallery: LMAK Gallery
Title: Return to Ritherdon
Artist: Nicola Ellis
Gallery: Castlefield Gallery


Title: How Much Life is Enough
Artist: Juno Calypso
Gallery: T J Boulting, London
Title: Homesick
Artist: Benoit Aubard
Gallery: galerie nivet-carzon, Paris
Title: Re-engineered Brown Betty Teapot
Artist: Ian McIntyre
Gallery: Airspace Gallery, Stoke on Trent


Title: Aquarius
Artist: William Mackrell
Gallery: The RYDER, London
Title: Mike 1 & Mike 11
Artist: Emma Charlotte Price
Gallery: Two Queens, Leicester