3 Music Inspired Exhibitions in Manchester

This week I took in no less than 3 exhibitions with a musical inspiration. First up was Manchester Marauders at 2022NQ, a fantastic exhibition dedicated to Manchester’s Hip Hop scene by photographer & DJ Air Adam. 20 years after the release of A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, whose eponymous album cover paid respect to fellow artists on the scene, Adam’s exhibition centrepiece is of his very own Manchester Marauders. A cleverly crafted homage to the original,  featuring people who’ve inspired Adam within Manchester’s thriving scene,  over the years since he moved to Manchester in the mid 90’s. I really enjoyed this exhibition because if you’ve ever been to any club night with a hint of Hip Hop on the bill over the past 15 years or so, you’re bound to recognise at least one of the names, if not faces from this collection. For me the exhibition as a whole acts as a celebration of Manchester’ s music scene that doesn’t seem to get recognition outside of the guitar bands and Hacienda nights.

Manchester Marauders © Air Adam 2013

The exhibition features shots from various club nights within Manchester (the only exception are some photos of Tribe themselves, earlier this year at Wireless Festival in London) but it’s not all about the Dj’s & performers though, the audience participation at various events are equally represented in Adam’s shots  which are a mix of crisp black & white shots with some atmospheric silhouettes against the ambient light. This exhibition runs until 26th October 2013 – prints are available to purchase here.

Next up was the ‘Defining Me: Musical Adventures in Manchester’  in the oft forgotten or at least not well publicised ‘side gallery’ of the Lowry, the exhibition is an impressive array of photographs, posters, and artefacts from personal collections of people who’ve been involved in the Manchester music scene who you might not recognise alongside some extremely familiar names such as Kevin Cummins.

Denise, Joan and Jodie © Kevin Cummins 1977

Personal highlights were a ticket stub for LL Cool J from 1987 and a poster for a Grand Central album launch mid 90’s.  It’s an exhibition I intend to revisit and have a really good nosy into, there was a lot to soak up and it was unusually busy when I visited.  Exhibition runs until 23rd Feb 2014.

The third exhibition I visited was the highly anticipated Alison Goldfrapp: Performer as Curator http://www.thelowry.com/exhibitions/microsites/performer-as-curator-alison-goldfrapp/home/ which has seen a massive amount of hype. I can honestly say I’ve never heard so much buzz about an exhibition at the Lowry before.  The exhibition is the first in a series of Performer as Curator, with this exhibition being a collection of works that inspire Goldfrapp’s whole artistic vision not just the music. The exhibition is an eclectic array of books, paintings, photographs and objects from Goldfrapp’s home, despite all this the exhibition left me cold, in fact my favourite part of the show was the promotional black on gold silhouetted image of a girl with  deer. I don’t know whether it was the layout of the gallery or the poor lighting but I just didn’t feel compelled to linger and explore.

There were some books of beautifully illustrated books of fairy tales, but the lighting above them made it difficult to see detail properly, with parts obstructed by shadows and reflections on the glass and the name plates of all the exhibits were white lettering on gold-coloured background which again made it difficult to read. This coupled with the lack of an exhibition pamphlet left me feeling that someone thought the objects & imagery alone, would be strong enough, but without some sort of explanation or dialogue, this exhibition felt seriously lacking something (I do not consider the brief notations from the curator on a couple of the walls a good enough explanation or reason to tie all the loose ends together) and I felt there wasn’t enough information to put everything together into a coherent context, for example the photographs from Francesca Woodman were presented without explanation.  I have no idea why or how this series of photographs influence Goldfrapp or why they were important enough to be included in the exhibition? maybe this mysterious element was intentional, but I’m afraid that if it was, it was just too mysterious for me to fathom and impeded my enjoyment. Exhibition runs until 2nd March 2014.

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