The gallery reopens on 14 February after an redevelopment project by MUMA (McInnes Usher McKnight Architects) that will transform the 125 year old Whitworth into a 21 st century gallery in the park. The redevelopment will double public space and create state-of-the-art new facilities including expanded gallery spaces, a study centre, learning studio, and a collections centre.
Leading with a major solo exhibition from one of Britain’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, Cornelia Parker, the opening programme will celebrate the Whitworth’s eclectic and extensive collection of historical and contemporary fine art, textiles and wallpapers.
At the heart of MUMA’s major redevelopment project is the creation of an elegant glass, stainless steel and brick extension, which will see two wings extend into Whitworth Park from the back of the existing 19th century building. For the extension, MUMA have developed a unique Whitworth blend of British brick and a brickwork pattern with a traditional textile slash work effect, inspired by the gallery’s extensive textile collection.
Drawing on the Whitworth’s heritage as the first English gallery in a park, the new wings create an art garden between them and will be connected by a glass promenade gallery overlooking the surrounding landscape. The landscape gallery wing will provide exhibition space for the display of landscape works and large scale sculptures.
Across the promenade, a beautiful linear café extends into the trees in Whitworth Park. A large window in the centre of the existing building will reveal a sight line into the main exhibition space, connecting the gallery to the surrounding park beyond. This increased exhibition and public space will allow the Whitworth to show, share and care for its significant collection of over 55,000 historical and contemporary works.
A new environmentally sustainable collection storage area will be created in the lower ground floor, including a public collections access area. Extensive refurbishment of the existing gallery building will include restoring the volume of the three 19th century barrel-vault exhibition gallery ceilings to enable the display of major, large scale shows. Visitors will also be able to access the reinstated Grand Hall on the first floor through glorious Edwardian staircases returned to public use for the first time in over 50 years.
An additional £1.8m from the Arts Council England will complete the refurbishment, including an improved entrance to the gallery on Oxford Road and Sculpture Terrace with works by Bernard Schottlander (Terminal, c.1965) and Gustav Metzger (Flailing Trees, 2009).
The Art Garden
A new Art Garden and an Orchard Garden have been designed by Chelsea gold medalist Sarah Price, who co-designed the 2012 Olympic Park gardens in London. Grasses and perennial plants in the Art Garden will keep sight lines open whilst creating a sense of depth. Loosely clipped, evergreen hedging will be arranged to form rolling, distorted clouds varying in height and shape.
The hedging will be designed to look interesting from every angle and suggest partially enclosed interior spaces, creating backdrops suitable for displaying outdoor artworks. Extending the exhibition space beyond the gallery walls, a significant number of new outdoor sculptures by artists including Christine Borland, Nate Lowman, Simon Periton and Nico Vascellari from a recent donation of 90 works from The Karpidas Foundation will go on permanent display in the Art Garden.
The enclosed Orchard Garden and wildflower area will offer a place for relaxation and reflection as well as support the Whitworth’s work to promote the biodiversity of the park. Source by the Whitworth.