Northern Design Scene: Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester Art Gallery has a wonderful mixture of  international collections, both contemporary and historic right in the heart of the city. 

As part of the running to the BCFA’s Manchester Open, Design Insider is looking into the northern design scene. We visited Manchester Art Gallery and were blown away by some of the exhibits. Take a look at a few of our top picks below.

South Asian Design

South Asia has a long history of crafts inspired by it’s cultural diversity and abundance of natural raw materials. The gallery is holding an exhibition that celebrates some of the areas leading artists, designers and craftspeople up until 14th May 2018. My favourite pieces were designed by Valay Gada from Indian design practice, Cobalt Designs.light

Xylem light (2014) – Powder coated embossed sheet brass

This light shade is inspired by xlem, microscopic cell structures in plant stems. The natural world is a major inspiration for Gada.

Another Indian design firm that caight my eye was Rubberband, founded by Ajay Shah. Rubberband’s designs are a combination of industrial design with visual playfulness and their designs obviously don’t take themselves too seriously. The furniture pictured below is all designed by Shah himself and are all made from epoxy powder coated aluminium. rubberband furniture

Shirley Baker – Women & Children; and Loitering Men

Another exhibition being held during my visit to the gallery was that of Shirley Baker. Running until the 28th August 2017, this selection of photographs shows the working-class inner-city areas of manchester from 1960-1981. Baker was a born in Salford, Manchester in 1932 and was one of the few women to receive formal training in photography in post-war Britain.

The exhibition includes previously unseen work including some from her brief use of colour photography. The photos capture a humerus side to the post-war working class of Manchester while also show the everyday human resilience of the time. See a selection of the photographs below.

 True Faith: Joy Division & New Order

My final stop at the Manchester Art Gallery was the True Faith exhibition running until 3rd Septmber 2017. This was a collection of art, memorabilia, film, fashion all created by or influenced by one of Manchester’s most successful musical legacies. Joy Division were together from 1976 until the death of the bands singer Ian Curtis in 1980, when the band continued as New Order and continue to play today.

Joy division were a revolutionary ‘post-punk’ band who’s music, album sleeves and videos started a new aesthetic in popular music. The exhibitions includes the work of Peter Saville, who designed the bands record sleeves, rare performance footage from both bands, personal materials such as hand-written lyrics by Ian Curtis and artworks inspired by the bands. It was a really beautiful and insightful collection, and let’s just say that afterwards I quickly downloaded the ‘best of’ albums for both bands. Take a sneak-peek at my photos from the exhibit here.

“This terrific show is a reminder of how art was at the core of Manchester’s most enigmatic band” – Adrian Searle, The Guardian



About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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