Manchester Art Gallery



Manchester Art Gallery was founded in the 1820s as the Royal Manchester Institution for the Promotion of Literature, Science and the Arts. The Royal Institution organised exhibitions, concerts and lectures and housed the city’s School of Design in its basement. In 1827, the Institution bought its first artwork, Othello, the Moor of Venice, a portrait of celebrated black actor Ira Aldridge, by James Northcote RA.

The Royal Institution’s buildings and collections were handed over to the city in 1882, on condition that £2,000 per year would be spent on art for the next 20 years. The new Art Gallery Committee bought enthusiastically and, by the early 1900s, an impressive collection of fine and decorative art had been accumulated, added to by gifts and bequests from wealthy Manchester industrialists, many of whom made money from cotton and its associations with slavery.

Today, the gallery is part of Manchester City Galleries, a department of Manchester City Council. It cares for the city’s collections of fine and decorative art, and runs an ambitious programme of temporary exhibitions and displays, public events and services for schools.

Manchester Art Gallery closed for redevelopment in 1998, re-opening four years later after a £35m expansion, since when it has won several national awards and developed a reputation for high quality, family friendly services. Manchester City Galleries is leader of the North West Museums Hub, part of a national framework set up by government through the Renaissance in the Regions programme, to develop centres of excellence for museums and audiences.