Again, some clever creative thinking is applied: for the second major show at the Whitworth after the reopening, for example, a group exhibition of contemporary Chinese art was shown, and launched to coincide with the direct flight routes opening up to Hong Kong and Beijing from Manchester.
“We think really hard about how can speak quite directly to the international destinations that are priorities for Manchester,” says Balshaw. Recently the Whitworth has received funding alongside the Liverpool Biennial and the Tetley in Leeds to partner with five art organisations and events across South Asia to develop “a programme of new commissions, sharing exhibitions, sharing expertise”. “It’s a part of the world that we’ve had connections with for centuries,” says Balshaw. “12% of the population in Greater Manchester is South Asian.”
As well as its significance internationally, this link up is also testament to the collaborative and supportive nature of the institutions and artistic groups in the local area. Rather than be in competition with each other, the various museums and art groups in the north actively support each other via social media and the like, with a view that by doing so, everyone benefits.
“Quite a long time ago in the city, not just for museums but across art forms, we got to a place – with most people, not with absolutely everybody – where you can say that if we do something really good and have a huge success, this does not steal success from you. In fact, it’s more likely to bring extra people to you as well. Even the Arts Council has noticed this.”
As well as the Whitworth, Maria Balshaw is director of Manchester Art Gallery. When addressing the question of how she has managed the significant changes she has introduced across the two sites, she says “it takes time”.