The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund
Words by Thom Hetherington, Founder of The Manchester Art Fair
Many of us will have walked around Manchester Art Gallery and marvelled at the incredible works on display. Priceless, world class art, right there on the walls for us all to enjoy, entirely free of charge. But how many of us have ever stopped to consider who initially paid for all those masterpieces, which are owned by the gallery and thus the city of Manchester, and therefore by at least some of you dear reader.
Although pieces are often acquired through corporate donations or philanthropic trusts, much of Manchester Art Gallery’s incredible collection – think particularly of its pre-Raphaelites and Valettes – was bequeathed in the Victorian era by proud local industrialists giving something back to their home city. Nowadays though it is a challenge to ensure that the collection remains current, with new additions needed on a continual basis.
Some may ask why that matters, but it is the role of contemporary artists to capture and represent how the world is at a given point in time, and it is vital for a major institution like Manchester Art Gallery to provide an unbroken temporal thread for future generations. It provides not just an insight into history, but a prism through which to re-interpret the present day. And let’s face it, with the way the world is now we could do with all the help we can get!
As I sit on the board of Manchester Art Gallery and also founded Aviva Investor’s Manchester Art Fair, one of the country’s most ambitious art fairs, I decided to establish ‘The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund’. This pot of cash, donated by locally-based private individuals, is used by the gallery’s curators to acquire new works from the ‘The Manchester Contemporary’ section of the art fair, which features critically engaged works from emerging artists.
On the 17th of May the works selected for the fund from last year’s fair were put on display. Pieces by artists Benoit Aubard, Juno Calypso and Ian McIntyre have been carefully sited within the gallery, responding to the historical masterpieces alongside which they sit. By the time the next Aviva Investor’s Manchester Art Fair takes place later this October the fund will be in is third iteration, establishing a new wave of Mancunian cultural patronage.