After closing to all but virtual visitors back in March, Manchester Art Gallery is set to re-open its doors and welcome people back inside from 20 August.
This date will see a partial re-opening of the gallery four days a week, from Thursdays to Sundays, between 11am and 4pm each day.
Visitors will be able to see the gallery’s much-loved displays of British and European art and design, including the world famous Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Millais, Holman Hunt and Rossetti, and other highlights including works by Stubbs, Turner, Landseer, Lord Leighton, and Wagner’s The Chariot Race.
Also on display until 4 October 2020 is the exhibition Jerwood Makers Open, which showcases five new commissions by early career artists working in wood, textiles, ceramics and metal.
A one-way route though the building has been introduced that will allow visitors to see many of the highlights of the collection plus a brand new introductory gallery. The new display ‘What is Manchester Art Gallery?’ offers a dynamic introduction to the gallery – including its origins, how the collection was formed, and how it relates to Manchester and its people.
Current social distancing restrictions mean it won’t be possible to open up the entire gallery straightaway to visitors from August, although plans are being made to do so as soon as these are eased. This means that for the moment, the rooms featuring the gallery’s sculpture collection, 17th century Dutch art, Lowry, and Valette will not be open.
The gallery’s main exhibitions programme will restart in late Spring 2021 with Derek Jarman PROTEST! which was only weeks away from opening when the gallery was forced to close its doors to visitors back in March.
Other highlights coming up next year include Dandy Style – an exhibition in November 2021 exploring 250 years of masculine style and identity through fashion, painting and photography.
Also coming up in November will be Bernardo Bellotto: Five Spectacular Views Reunited, an exhibition created in partnership with the National Gallery.
Alistair Hudson, Director of Manchester Art Gallery, said: “A museum without people is a pretty lonely place, and we can’t wait to welcome our staff and visitors back. Although we can’t open all of the galleries just yet, we hope the chance to see a few ‘old friends’ and the city’s rich, historic collections in a safe and peaceful environment will be a welcome treat for everyone after spending so long in lockdown.
“Just because our doors have been closed however doesn’t mean the work has stopped. We’ve been working on virtual workshops, arts and health sessions, online education and even providing activity packs to families in partnership with Sure Start. The team’s work preparing future displays has also continued, and it promises to be an exciting year ahead for the gallery at the heart of the city.
“In addition to all of this, during lockdown we’ve produced a beautiful new hard-back book of the collections which will be available for sale in the gallery shop. The sales will all help support the gallery in very difficult times and help us to continue our work with local residents and communities in the city.”
Whilst entry to the gallery remains free of charge, visitors will have to pre-book their visit on-line through the gallery website or via the free-to-download Art Fund on-line ticketing app.
In order to make the gallery as safe as possible for visitors and staff, and to comply with social distancing restrictions, each of the bookable slots – either for individual visitors or for groups of up to six friends visiting together – will be five minutes apart to allow a steady and safe flow of visitors through the gallery.
Booking conditions will also require people to give their names and addresses, and to wear face coverings in line with national advice on the wearing of face coverings in busy public places.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Skills, Manchester City Council, said: “Whilst the gallery’s virtual programme has gone down really well with people from near and far during lockdown, nothing really beats spending time inside the gallery and getting up close and personal to our paintings and exhibits.
“Gallery staff are working hard to make sure a visit to the gallery from 20 August will be as safe as it possibly can be, and they can’t wait to welcome gallery goers back through the door.
“If you’re an old friend, welcome back, and if you haven’t visited us before, come on down and see what we’ve got. We guarantee you’ll find something you like.”
For more information and to book tickets visit www.manchesterartgallery.org