Manchester Art Gallery to undergo renovations to tackle 'significant problems' with damp and leaks

It is home to several works by L.S. Lowry and Pierre Adolphe Valette.
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Manchester Art Gallery is set to undergo major renovations to address ‘significant problems’ with damp and leaks.

The Mosley Street institution first opened in 1823, and now is owned by the council — which is set to give the gallery group £2.6m in funding at a meeting on Wednesday (February 14). The total day-to-day budget for the organisation — which includes the city centre gallery, Platt Hall in Fallowfield, and the Queens Park Conservation and Research Centre — will be £4.1 million for 2024/25.

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But more money will be spent on refurbishing the grade-I listed building, which is home to several works by L.S. Lowry and Pierre Adolphe Valette. Work has started on-site, a report to the council’s art gallery committee said, with scaffolding being erected.

That work has ‘uncovered significant problems with damp and water ingress, the condition of  the windows, and identified improvements needed to heating and security’ in the Athenaeum basement office, the report went on.

Other renovations will address water ingress in different parts of the building, it added: “At MAG, Phase 1 will start in earnest with work to the two entrances in the Atrium addressing water ingress into the basement staff room via the revolving door and bringing it back into use as a library/archive space and quiet room for staff.”

A second phase of work is ‘in development to remediate the damp in the basement (kitchen areas, and archive library) and address the ceiling and lighting in gallery 17’, it continued.

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Cllr Luthfur Rahman OBE, the council’s deputy leader, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the issues were ‘inevitable’, given the gallery’s age. He added in a statement: “Like any building of this age maintenance issues inevitably arise that can’t be left and need to be tackled.  

“Work is currently underway to address the issues and at the same time to carry out improvements to the public toilets in the gallery and to create new collection storage within the building.” 

Manchester Art GalleryManchester Art Gallery
Manchester Art Gallery

The report also revealed that the gallery’s cafe is facing surges in the cost of raw ingredients used on its menu, which is expected to lead to an increase in prices charged to customers.

That sits alongside ‘a new pricing matrix for both events and catering’ from April 1, which will be around 10 percent higher than current levels, with the gallery being a popular spot for weddings, hosting 21 last year.

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Cllr Rahman added in his statement that the gallery aimed ‘to provide good food at a good value price’. He went on: “The gallery and its world-renowned collections are free for people to visit and we also work hard to make our cafe as accessible as possible to visitors through fair pricing and a quality offer.

“We aim to provide good food at a good value price, knowing how important a space to relax and meet with others is to our visitors. Sadly though we can’t escape the fact that costs have gone up and as a result prices in the cafe will have to rise accordingly. We will however be doing everything we can to keep prices as low as possible whilst maintaining our high standard offer.”

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