This spring sees Manchester host a range of exhibitions, whether it be galleries, studios and museums presenting art from both new and renowned artists, or installations that really get you thinking and immersed in the experience. Manchester is a cultural hub and you’ll find plenty of exhibitions showcasing the likes of art, photography, memorabilia, sculptures and historical artefacts across the city to discover during your free time. So switch off from the everyday and become fully absorbed in these exhibitions taking place in Manchester this summer, many of which are free to visit.
Art exhibitions in Manchester
1. L.S Lowry Exhibition, The Lowry
Credit: The LowryOf course, the largest collection of L.S Lowry‘s work has to be on display at his namesake gallery, and now once again complete with his infamous painting Going To The Match, which sold to them for almost £8 million at the end of 2022, The Lowry boasts its most comprehensive selection ever. Lowry’s so-called ‘matchstick men‘ populate his paintings based on locations around the North West where he spent most of his life, especially Pendlebury, Lancashire, and often evoke a familiarity in northerners, whether through the industrial landscapes they portray, or familiar activities such as ‘Going To Work‘ or milling around a ‘Market Scene‘.
In addition to his paintings, the gallery also houses an extensive archive of photographs, press cuttings and exhibition catalogues associated with Lowry, providing critical and curatorial analysis of his work for a deeper look at the person behind the easel. This permanent exhibition is perfect for anyone familiar with his work who wants to get a real-life look at their favourite pieces, but also newbies keen to take in some North West culture at the true home of L.S Lowry. Permanent exhibition | Free entry.
2. Entomagical, Manchester Craft & Design Centre
In a particularly unique exhibition, ceramic artist Anna Collette Hunt displays a collection of Entomagical insects to reflect the hive mentality of our city, marking the 150th anniversary of Manchester Craft & Design Centre. Frozen in time, these reimagined insects connect with the building’s Victorian past and Manchester’s worker bee mindset, and, fittingly, the mystery and wonder of the natural world and the curious order of insects are the focus of Anna’s work. Ends 26th August | Free entry.
3. Colors Festival
Colors Festival, the stunning celebration of the best of street art, is debuting in the UK right here in Manchester. The family friendly experience is a delight for all and takes over a giant repurposed space that spans 800m² and is filled with larger than life artwork. The experience has taken over Regent Retail Park in Salford and showcases the works of 30 established and local artists on a huge scale. Ends July 2 | Tickets from £8.
4. Yayoi Kusama: You, Me and the Balloons, Factory International
Yayoi Kusama has stunned hundreds if not millions of visitors with her amazing, jaw-dropping art shows over the years, however the much-loved artist is set to host an exhibition in Manchester this summer. Bringing her largest ever immersive environment to Manchester’s new landmark cultural venue Factory International, the exhibition will form the centrepiece of the Manchester International Festival 2023 within the main warehouse space.
Known as You, Me and the Balloons, the exhibition will celebrate three decades of the pioneering Japanese artist’s inflatable artworks, which are brought together for the first time in this major exhibition. Created specially for Factory International in Manchester, this exhibition by Yayoi Kusama will feature works that are over ten metres tall – including giant dolls, spectacular tendrilled landscapes and a vast constellation of polka-dot spheres. June 30 – August 23 | Tickets £15.
5. Julia and Axel – Thirty Years of Favourite Stories, The Lowry
This summer, popular children’s books The Gruffalo, Zog, Stick Man and Room on the Broom will all be brought together for a new free exhibition opening at The Lowry in Salford. The major new exhibition in collaboration with publishers Macmillan Children’s Books and Scholastic will celebrate the acclaimed partnership between writer Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler.
Known as Julia and Axel – Thirty Years of Favourite Stories, the exhibition will bring to life some of the world’s best loved characters in contemporary children’s fiction. Kicking off from July and running until the end of the year, visitors can discover more stories behind well-known characters from the terrible tusks and terrible claws of the Gruffalo to the Witch, her cat, and her very tall hat, and Stick Man on his journey home to the ‘family tree’ at this exhibition. Starts July 22 | Free entry.
Multimedia exhibitions in Manchester
6. Benji Reid: Find Your Eyes, Manchester Academy
Another exhibition as part of Manchester International Festival, the wonderful Benji Reid will be showing his comletely unique Find Your Eyes show at Manchester’s Academy – a venue more used to hosting live shows from the biggest names in music. A choreo-photolist, Benji Reid combines photography, choreography and theatre to make striking and surreal images which speak to his experiences as a Black man in the UK today.
Find Your Eyes is a show which exposes the making of this work – a behind-the-scenes look at Benji’s life and practice where the stage becomes a studio. Combining live performance and photography, Find Your Eyes is set to be deeply personal and moving, and like nothing else. July 12 – 16 | Tickets from £10.
7. Dinu Li: A Phantom’s Vibe, esea contemporary
A Phantom’s Vibe is a solo exhibition by artist Dinu Li, featuring newly commissioned and existing works that combine music, sculptural assemblages, and video installation. The exhibition explores the complexities of colonial history, cultural memory, and hybrid identities. The wonderful exhibition will take place at esea contemporary, the UK’s only non-profit art centre specialising in presenting and platforming artists and art practices that identify with and are informed by East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) cultural backgrounds. Starts July 22 | Free entry.
Historical exhibitions in Manchester
8. People’s History Museum
Manchester’s People’s History Museum is the UK’s only museum entirely dedicated to sharing the stories of the revolutionaries, reformers, workers, voters and citizens who strive(d) for change. We recommend checking out the entire collection at PHM as it’s ever-growing and truly fascinating. From suffragette banners and badges, to political posters and artwork, the PHM tracks the political and community history of Manchester, focusing on those who have, and still, fight for justice and equality.
PHM also champion ‘ideas worth fighting for‘ by proudly exhibiting works linked to disabled people’s activism, with their ‘Nothing About Us Without Us‘ and ‘Quiet‘ exhibitions, and LGBTQ+ history with ‘OUTing the Past‘. PHM also aim to be as disability-inclusive as possible, especially with championing disabled people’s rights, so accessibility is no issue. Exhibition durations differ | Free entry – donation encouraged.
Immersive exhibitions in Manchester
9. Operation Ouch!: Food, Poo and You, Science and Industry Museum
From the brains behind CBBC hit Operation Ouch!, immersive exhibition Food, Poo and You is truly for the whole family, providing interactive education on the digestive system and human biology. It promises plenty of giggle-worthy grossness, from exploring a set of super-sized gnashers, to slipping down the oesophagus and investigating the innerworkings of the intestines.
Opening at the Museum of Science and Industry Manchester on Friday 21st July, Food, Poo and You will see visitors sent on a special mission to get up close and, in one case, extremely personal, with presenters Dr Chris, Dr Xand and Dr Ronx as they are shrunk, swallowed, squeezed through and spat out of Dr Xand’s digestive system during a lively, interactive and playful adventure to better understand our brilliant bodies. Starts July 21 | Tickets from £9.
Cultural exhibitions in Manchester
10. (Un)Defining Queer, The Whitworth
This exhibition delves into The Whitworth’s collection to examine how we can use a queer lens to define what the term ‘queer’ means. Presenting collection works that have never been on display before, as well as loans, the exhibition includes artists such as: Ajamu X, Niki de Saint Phalle, General Idea, David Hockney, Maggie Hambling, Pearl Alcock, Keith Vaughan, Matthew Bamber, Sarah-Joy Ford, Wolfgang Tillmans, Chester Tenneson, and Jez Dolan.
Co-led by an intersectional group of people who self-identify as LGBTQIA+, the project sets out to interrogate language, histories, and narratives within The Whitworth’s practice and collections. More specifically, the project and exhibition seek to redress historic omissions that have existed as a result of heteronormative museum practice. Ends December 3 | Free entry – some events require booking/tickets.
11. Great Big Green Week: The SODA Seed Bank of Self, Castlefield Viaduct
The students at SODA (MMU) have taken the concept of the ‘doomsday vault’ as their inspiration and artistic starting point for this exhibition at Castlefield Viaduct to create a seed of their own identity. On the remote arctic island of Spitsbergen, you will find the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a secure backup facility for the world’s food supply. Inside, there are millions of seeds from more than 930,000 varieties of food crops. Also known as the ‘doomsday vault’, its purpose is to preserve our crops in case of a global emergency.
There will be a sound, image, or film embedded in each of the seed exhibits created by twenty students and artists. You will be able to scan and activate a code on the seeds with your phone to reveal and gain insight into this very personal expression of identity and self ‘planted’ on the Viaduct. June 9 – 21 | Free entry.