New Opportunities for Public Art in Manchester

Ghislaine Howard leads a creative initiative aimed at bringing people into the city and “humanising” the workspace across Greater Manchester with art.
May 26, 2022

A LEADING British artist has launched an initiative that it is hoped will encourage businesses and artists to view working space as a place to hang art works in and around Greater Manchester.

The initiative, by Ghislaine Howard, in collaboration with The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, also hopes to stimulate interest by attracting members of the public and art professionals from across Greater Manchester.

The latter often complain of a lack of gallery space from across the region and the hope is over time to organically create a more vibrant art scene, which could include the use of commercial and businesses paces, as a possible opportunity to display that art.

After the opening of art exhibition in the workspace at the Chamber’s Elliott House head office at Manchester’s Deansgate, the Eccles born Ghislaine said:  “We have worked together with the chamber for something like three years and the reason for their interest was the range of my work and connectivity to social and political concerns.

”In 1993 and 1994 Ghislaine had an exhibition entitled the ‘Shared Experience’ at both Manchester Art Gallery and  later at London’s Wellcome Foundation; the result of spending four months as artist in residence at St Mary’s Maternity Hospital, Manchester.

More recently, she has focussed on a long term project from 2014, labelled the Seven Acts of Mercy: namely feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, providing water to those who thirst, clothing the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the imprisoned, and burying the dead.

Ghislaine explains: “The Seven Acts of Mercy, incorporating as it does subjects originally Christian in origin, but at the heart of every religion and decent society.

”Ghislaine’s husband, art historian and writer Michael, who will be helping ensure the collaboration is a success, said: “The chamber has given Ghislaine space in their building and a painting store in order to facilitate this and so it is in order to call Elliot House the ‘Home of the Ghislaine Howard Collection’.

"In setting up the initiative Ghislaine and I will be choosing a number of neglected, perhaps over-familiar, or simply striking work from the museums and galleries of the region to highlight the continuing resonance and significance of the works.”

“In so doing, to open doors and to make accessible without betraying the qualities of professional practice what such works have to offer to a contemporary audience. And, for us, importantly, to respect and develop and enriched understanding of the always political nature of art and representation.”

“The chamber and ourselves will, at the same time, be reaching out to the different boroughs and, hopefully, with the help of various agencies, we will be able to encourage and make possible a wide variety of responses to Ghislaine’s work - the actual nature of those agencies will be determined by meeting with representatives of the boroughs and by allowing things to develop organically.

”Ghislaine is keen to point out the initiative is not a platform for artists, but is more aimed at bringing people into the city and “humanising” the workspace across Greater Manchester.

She adds: “What might happen as a result of this interaction is yet to be seen, but we imagine various communities coming into Elliot House and having access to the full body of my work - and as a result of this encounter, potentially curating their own exhibition of such works."

“In addition, we could imagine workshops run by artists, talks and events - but it is important not to think of it as a forum to display the work of young or emerging artists. However by interacting with them through the relevant channels (whatever they may be) there will be other opportunities presenting themselves. That’s the reciprocal nature of what we are hoping for.”

“What we hope for, for young artists, is that they will be inspired by this unique, outward looking experiment that brings art, commerce and communities together in a vibrant, optimistic and hopeful way that they will be inspired or encouraged, as has happened with my works to make connections with non-gallery institutions."

”The chamber CEO Clive Memmott said: “When we first moved to Elliot House, I didn’t want to have pictures of buildings but pictures that represented the people of Manchester. This is art that brings people together, showcasing human experiences and emotions.”

“The ambition is to showcase top quality art that is beautifully and thoughtfully displayed, in a working environment that members, guests and visitors can get really close to and interact with."

”Members of the public will be able to view the semi-permanent exhibition, at Elliot House, (151 Deansgate), on the last Friday of every month (excluding December) from 12pm to 5pm.

In addition to the works already on show, there will be a changing group of works entitled ‘10 Boroughs/10 Paintings’ which will highlight every part of Greater Manchester.


Images: Pete Devine/Greater Manchester Chamber of Trade