22 Must-See Exhibitions Happening In Manchester In January 2020

Laura O'Neill Laura O'Neill

22 Must-See Exhibitions Happening In Manchester In January 2020


1. This spectacular free light and projection show at Media City is electrifying (January 24 – 25)

The Porsche Soul Electrified event will take over Dock 10 Studios, Media City on January 24 and 25 and it’s set to be an unmissable event for lovers of design and culture. The experience will begin with a small exhibition that chronicles the origins of the new Taycan, followed by a bespoke light and projection art installation which will bring the electrified soul of the Porsche Taycan to life. Click here to reserve your tickets.

2. Check out the local talent in the Manchester Open Exhibition (from Jan 18 )

Photo: Home MCR

This open exhibition at HOME Gallery showcases work from over 500 Greater Manchester residents, from established pros to first-time artists who have never put brush to canvas before. Expect the unexpected: everything from sculpture to spoken word performances, paintings and prints. This free exhibition is definitely worth a visit. Click here for more information.

3. Be awestruck by Ho Tzu Nyen’s exploration of Southeast Asian identity (from Jan 24)

Photo: CFCCA

This exhibition is a taste of Ho’s long-term project the Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia, a body of work exploring the colonial histories and national identities of Southeast Asia. Ho has compiled historical artefacts and texts in a stunning audiovisual form, creating mini-films, installations and theatre works. Drop by the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art to have a gander. Click here for more information.

4. Get physical with this experimental art exhibition (from Jan 24)

Photo: Castlefield Gallery

Thumbs Up is a group exhibition from artists Michael Beard, Frances Disley, Harry Meadley, and Leslie Thompson presented by Castlefield Gallery and Venture Arts. They explore the physicality of the exhibition space and how the way in which contemporary art is displayed affects how audiences interact with it. Let your creative juices and curiosity flow. Click here for more information.

5. Make 2020 a banner year with this quirky display at the People’s History Museum (from Jan 25)

Photo: PHM

A colourful exhibition of historical and contemporary banners and posters is taking up residence in the People’s History Museum. Diverse images, colours and powerful text illustrate past protest campaigns and reflect on migration movements. For a bright but moving peep into the past this exhibition is a great family-friendly display. Click here for more information.

6. Peer into another family’s intimate life with Rae-Yen Song’s new exhibition (from Jan 24)

Photo: CFCCA

*May May Songuu* is an exhibition exploring British-Chinese identity. Through the lens of her own family history, stories and shared memories Rae-Yen has created video work, sculptural objects and drawings. Manchester’s Chinese communities have created responses to this explorative and ever-evolving installation. Click here for more information.

7. The 70s are calling from The Reno at the Whitworth (all month)

Photo: The Whitworth

The Reno nightclub in Moss Side was a space for young mixed-race Mancunians to gather in the 70s and early 80s. In a living exhibition at the Whitworth Linda Brogan and local residents who went to the club will tell the Reno story through art and material. Click here for more information. 

8. Commemorate a moment in local history (all month)

Photo: PHM

For a thought-provoking day out visit the ‘Disrupt? Peterloo and Protest’ exhibition at the People’s History Museum tells the story of the Peterloo Massacre, 1819. It remembers an important piece of history and explores its relevance for today, highlighting issues with our modern day democracy that people are still campaigning for. Well worth a visit before it closes in February. Click here for more information.

9. Experience a Mancunian Renaissance at Manchester Art Gallery (all month)

Photo: Louise Giovanelli/Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester-born Louise Giovanelli exhibits new work alongside rarely-seen Renaissance masterpieces. Brush up on your art history through a modern day lens. Click here for more information.

10. What’s in the box?! Sneak a peek inside the storerooms of an art gallery (all month)

Photo: Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester Art Gallery invites you behind the scenes of their sculpture collections. Out of the Crate allows you to access stored and archive works of art. Learn all the hidden stories behind the sculptures and get an insight into the preservation and investigation that happens behind closed doors. Click here for more information.

11. Anyone fancy a cuppa? Manchester Art Gallery explores the history of the hot drink (all month)

Photo: Manchester Art Gallery

It’s no secret that we Brits love our tea. And coffee. And hot chocolate isn’t too bad either. Trading Station at Manchester Art Gallery is an exhibition space exploring the complex history of how these hot drinks made their way to the UK (and thank goodness they did)! Click here for more information.

12. Get some much-need sun this January at the Science and Industry Museum (all month)

Photo: Science and Industry Museum

Shed some light on the wonder that is our lovely (but admittedly, rarely present) sun. From ancient myths to solar power, this exhibition explores our ever-changing relationship with our shiniest star. To brighten up your visit — kids go free. Click here for more information.

13. One for the bookworms at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House (all month)

Photo: Ruskin In His Study At Brantwood courtesy of The Ruskin Museum Coniston

A real page-turner of an exhibition at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House delves into the friendship, inspiration and scandal behind the author’s relationship with John Ruskin. Journey through the Pre-Raphaelite and Italian Grand tour years with these two great minds and learn about their legacies in social reform and education. Click here for more information.

14. Discover the stories behind Spinningfields through sculpture (all month)

Photo: Visit Manchester

In ‘a place lived’, Maddi Nicholson uses cast iron enamelled sculptures to tell the stories of the people who shaped Spinningfields way back in the 1800s. This quirky exhibition in Hardman Square explores how Spinningfields went from a terraced housing plot with ‘nothing there’ to the vibrant place-to-be it’s become. Click here for more information.

15. This art exhibition is China like you’ve never seen it before (all month)

Photo: Bank of China and Bank of Communications,中国银行和交通银行,2018,Acrylic and spray paint on canvas,200x300cm. Courtesy of the artist Cui Jie.

Cui Jie is a Shanghai based artist whose trippy architectural paintings use weird and wonderful perspectives to depict a kind of spatial disorientation. Her acclaimed work illustrates the rapid urbanisation of Chinese cities. Described as one of ‘China’s Rising Art Stars’ her exhibition at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art is not to be missed. Click here for more information.

16. Brush up on your art knowledge at this Cézanne exhibition (all month)

Photo: The Whitworth

The Whitworth is exhibiting an impressive collection of drawings and portraits. Extraordinarily, the collection includes a version of every print ever made by the artist. Click here for more information.

17. You’ve got mail! This quirky exhibition is full of smallscale art sent by post (all month)

Photo: Visit Manchester

For over 40 years artist Michael Leigh has been sending, receiving and collating little artworks through the post. He has compiled this work with fellow artist Hazel Jones into a stunning exhibition of global correspondence from over 50 artists. Exhibited at Manchester Metropolitan University, Mail Art is full of little curiosities and well worth a visit. Click here for more information.

18. Learn all about the daily grind at Quarry Bank (all month)

Photo: National Trust

A new exhibition at Quarry Bank explores how long hard days working at the mill affected the health and wellbeing of workers. The original mill archives accounting for accidents and injuries on site will be on display, as well as a selection of historical medical equipment. Click here for more information.

19. Revisit your childhood with this incredible LEGO exhibition (all month)

Photo: The Art of The Brick

This is LEGO like you’ve never seen it before! The touring exhibition, Art of the Brick, is in Manchester until the spring. Head to the Great Northern Warehouse to see more than 75 pieces of 3D art. There’s even a recreation of the Mona Lisa. Find out more here. 

20. Go on an adventure with Thomas Paine (all month)

Photo: Visit Manchester

The Working Class Movement Library is commemorating the radical writer Thomas Paine in this exhibition. Explore his adventurous life and near-death experiences, and take a look at original early editions of his groundbreaking texts, Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Age of Reason. Click here for more information. 

21. Visit the biggest exhibition of football shirts in the UK (all month)

STIP! How Football Got Shirty is a curated collection of over 200 football shirts at the National Football Museum. Iconic shirts on display will include England’s home Umbro shirt as worn by the Three Lions at Italia ’90, Brazil’s classic 1970 World Cup shirt as worn by Pele and West Germany’s 1988-1990 designed by legendary Adidas designer Ina Franzmann. Read more about it here.

22. Get an insight into the people of Yemen’s incredible resilience (until Jan 26)

Photo: Giles Clarke for UN/OCHA, 2017

Visit the UK’s first exhibition addressing the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The Imperial War Museum is showcasing objects, photographs, and personal stories as part of their Yemen: Inside a Crisis display. The exhibition provides moving and much-needed coverage of the difficult realities faced by Yemenis every day. Click here for more information.

Also published on Medium.

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