Manchester is currently celebrating all things arts and culture as the Manchester International Festival stages 18 extraordinary days packed with events and exhibitions (as if the culture rich gem of the North West didn’t have enough!). The start of this year’s festival marked the opening of a new exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery, True Faith. We recently spoke to Fiona Corridan, Curator of Contemporary Art at Manchester Art Gallery about the exhibition, and her role at the gallery.
Can you give us the lowdown on what readers can expect from True Faith?
True Faith will bring together four decades’ of art, film and design to provide a unique perspective on two of the most iconic and influential Manchester bands, Joy Division and New Order. The majority of the works in the exhibition are post-1980, but we do have one from 1890 – A Basket of Roses by Ignace-Henri-Théodore Fantin-Latour, which fans will recognise from the cover of New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies. We have paintings, films, prints, posters and installations on display and a selection of iconic Peter Saville record sleeves. We’ve collaborated with established names such as Kathryn Bigelow, Jonathan Demme and John Baldessari and also showcase rarely seen archival material, including the handwritten lyrics for Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, while Martin Boyce’s Our Love is Like the Flowers, the Rain, the Sea and the Hours installation turns the gallery into an urban park at night.
The aim of the exhibition is to highlight the influence that the music of both bands and the people they collaborated with has had on the wider cultural scene over the past 38 years. The most recent artwork was made within the last two years, so their influence continues to inspire artists which is rare.
Your role as Curator at Manchester Art Gallery must be fascinating, how do you go about finding curators and exhibitions?
There’s a great team at the gallery who work together on planning the programme. We have an ambitious exhibitions programme which is very varied and will often reflect the city’s collections, of which we are custodians. We programme historic and contemporary fine art, design, photography and costume, so we have a lot of ground to cover, but it does mean we can cast our net wide and look for the very best artists, designers and makers in these fields to work with. My colleagues are currently working on exhibitions to show contemporary art from South Asia, a commemorative show to mark the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, while my next project is working with a team to develop a Scandinavian design show.
Manchester has solid music roots, with True Faith exploring how New Order and Joy Division have inspired a wealth of visual art, is this an area of art and culture that Manchester Art Gallery could explore in the future, with other Mancunian bands?
Possibly, if we felt it was right for the programme and there were high-quality pieces of artwork out there. What’s so unusual about these bands and the people who worked with them is the international influence that they have had over a sustained period of time. There’s a huge amount of artwork out there that directly references or is inspired by Joy Division, New Order and Peter Saville. The philosophy from the beginning was to create a sense of creative autonomy – not just for the bands themselves, but also for the artists, designers, producers and filmmakers who collaborated with them. It’s highly unusual, even now, for a record label to hand over so much freedom to the creatives who develop artwork for covers or produce videos. There was (and still is with New Order), a real desire to work with visionaries who will add a new perspective to the music. For instance, for MIF 2017 New Order are working with contemporary artist Liam Gillick (whose work is featured in True Faith) on a series of performances at cOld Granada Studios.
How do you choose a colour and design scheme for an exhibition like this?
We’re really lucky to have Farrow & Ball as a partner for True Faith. It allowed us to create some wonderful colour schemes for our exhibitions and collection displays. Our colour choices really depend on the type of work we are showing and the kind of atmosphere we want to create in the gallery. For Vogue 100 last year, we had a wonderful palette to work with that evoked each decade that the magazine had been in circulation. For True Faith we wanted to create a sense of drama in a darkened space, something that would allow the artworks to appear luminous on a dark background. Black would have been too heavy, but Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe is dark enough to use in our video room spaces and allows the colours within the artwork to really stand out.
Would you share one of your favourite things to do in Manchester?
Just one! Can’t I have a list? Wonderful galleries, of course, shopping in the Northern Quarter and happy nights out with friends in the many bars.
What’s the most interesting artefact/antique/artwork/curios in your own home?
I love all the exhibition catalogues I’ve collected over the years – many of which I’ve had signed by the artists or curators we’ve worked with. They hold so many memories.
And finally, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’m a born and bred Mancunian and I’ve seen the city blossom over the past couple of decades, which makes me very proud. I do really love London too, so I could cope living there, or Paris, or New York…
Manchester International Festival runs until 16th July 2017, and marks the opening of True Faith at Manchester Art Gallery. True Faith is open until 3 September 2017, visit manchesterartgallery.org for more details.
All imagery courtesy of Manchester Art Gallery.