Four works of contemporary art with a combined value of £6,875 have been gifted to Manchester Art Gallery for the third year by The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund, created by a group of businesspeople passionate about their city. The work will be available for all to see in the gallery’s permanent collection.
The four pieces, by artists Nicola Ellis, Jane Benson, Nina Chua and Mark Titchner, were chosen at the 11th edition of The Manchester Contemporary, with Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at Manchester Art Gallery, Kate Jesson, leading the rigorous selection process.
“We were very much spoilt for choice this year at The Manchester Contemporary,” said Jesson. “There were so many stands from the UK, New York and Europe, it’s a really wonderful snapshot of contemporary art practice today.”
First to be announced as a recipient of the prestigious fund was 32-year-old Manchester based artist Nicola Ellis and her work, ‘Return to Ritherdon,’ a piece of powder-coated scrap steel created as part of a two-year manufacturing project in Darwin.
Speaking on the selection Jesson said: “We were keen to pick something that spoke of our city, in the one instance. The Manchester Art Gallery collection was built from the wealth of the industrial evolution but none of our industry is captured within our collection because of course that was the city and the gallery was very much a place to escape.
“But now we’re looking at the theme of work and our post-industrial landscape and so we’re absolutely thrilled that we were able to collect from Castlefield Gallery, in its 35th year of helping to support contemporary artists in our city, Nicola’s incredible work that seeks to disrupt the traditional process of powder-coating metal. It will feature in a show that we’re working on regarding our contemporary responses to work.”
Second to be selected was the work of Jane Benson, a North West born, and New York based artist represented by first time exhibitor. New York gallery, LMAK.
Her work, ‘Toothache’, is taken from a series of books about women in Palestine and their everyday occurrences that, due to the situation in which they live, become a behemoth task. The work sees the text cut away, all but for the words ‘do re mi fa so la ti do’, which are sung beautifully to the engaged viewer, moving the individual into an environment of appreciation.
A powerful and mesmerising piece, Jesson explained why the piece resonated with The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund Committee: “As we move towards a post Brexit world it’s always good to remind ourselves that art and artists have always moved across borders in order to create artwork and there’s a real concern that this could become increasingly hard in the future Great Britain that we are making for ourselves, so it’s great that our New York gallery have brought back our artist.“
Third on the list and making it a hattrick of female artist acquisitions, all of whom have ties to the North West, was Manchester artist Nina Chua’s ballpoint pen drawings, which are produced though the art of repetitive line drawing in one direction followed by the other. Speaking on what it was that compelled the committee to secure Chua’s work, shown by Workplace Foundation, Jesson said: “It is, quite simply, gorgeous. There’s something about the simple act of mark making, of taking a pen and making a mark on a piece of paper, and there’s something about the repetition and almost obsessive way of working and building up the colour on the paper; it really is just gorgeous.“
Completing this year’s selection was the work of 2006 Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner, ‘Some Questions About Us.’ The impactful work, commissioned by Bethlem Gallery as part it’s Mental Health & Justice Project, sees a series of mirrored placards, ask seemingly straight forward and yet difficult questions of us, the viewer; questions, not just around issues regarding our mental health but questions about power, control and democracy.
The acquired work, one of forty print editions, was created after staff at Bethlem Hospital, inspired by the responses the work provoked, asked if Titchner might provide copies of the questions for display around the hospital, as an educational tool. His response was to create 40 print editions of the work, with twenty gifted to the hospital and 20 made available to the world.
Speaking on the selection Titchner said: “I’m really pleased that ‘Some Questions About Us’ is going into a public setting again. The idea of this project is to engage as many people as possible with some ideas about mental health and mental capacity. I’m very happy it’s found a good home. “
Jesson added: “We’ll be using the work a lot to stimulate conversation at the art gallery.”