This Saturday, Valentine’s Day, is a long-awaited day for art-lovers in Manchester: the Whitworth Art Gallery re-opens after a major redevelopment project. I was lucky enough last weekend to attend the ‘friends and family’ preview evening. The atmosphere was one of celebration and excitement; it was great to be back in the building, and to see some favourite works back on display (not least the magnificent Blake watercolours), as well as new gallery spaces and installations.
The director, Maria Balshaw told us that as ‘friends and family’ we were both privileged pre-viewers, and the test-drivers of the new building – the idea being that any minor hiccups could be ironed out before the real opening on Saturday. There were not many that I was aware of; one that she apologised for was that there were not enough wine glasses which meant that wine was being served in tumblers. There was really no need for this apology, because drinking wine from a tumbler is actually a Blakean practice – he liked drinking from a tumbler because he thought wine glasses were silly – and Blake is not only a star of the watercolour collection which is among the opening displays, but also has also inspired the headline show and opening spectacle from Cornelia Parker (which you can read about in an article from the Guardian).
So here’s a Blakean cheers (from a tumbler) to new Whitworth! I’m looking forward to Saturday.