More outdoor art please

[This is one of series of blogs to promote my campaign to produce a 30-year retrospective book.]

Sure, I like seeing my work exhibited in galleries, but even more I like to see it displayed in everyday places or out in the open.

People who wouldn’t normally go to the gallery get to see it and I’ve always thought that was my audience.

My first show as a freelancer – in 1991 – was mounted on B&Q door panels and connected with copper tubing. ‘City Shapers’ featured portraits of the movers and shakers who were deciding what the regenerated Manchester should look like. It seemed appropriate, accountable even, that these portraits should tour the city: to the Arndale Centre, to a bank, to a theatre, and an office block.

Construction hoardings make ideal outside gallery walls. By the end of 1999 I’d spent nearly two years documenting the reconstruction of the city centre following the IRA bomb. I photographed swathes of the central core been demolished and replaced with new stores, a new square, new roads. Maxwell House – once home to Mirror Group Newspapers – was gutted and rebuilt as The Printworks. Many of these images were digitally output and attached to hoardings along the newly-created New Cathedral Street.

In 2005, 176 photographic prints – each showing an arch between Piccadilly and Pomoma – were butted together and displayed on Platform 12 at Piccadilly Station. ‘This City Wall’ was only supposed to be up for a few weeks, it was up, I’m sure, for over a year. See my blog post here.

Wanting to push the boundaries of ‘outdoor art’ I organised a special exhibition for a Creative Tourist Weekender event in 2012. A dozen or more participants took images in the morning, and then formed a mobile human exhibition in the afternoon. Great fun.

My first sketching exhibition was displayed on a wire fence on Redhill Street. Thank you Urban Splash. More portraits, this time of new and established Ancoats residents accompanied by their views on the redevelopment of their neighbourhood.

In turn, that inspired another outdoor show in Wythenshawe celebrating the wonderful work of Real Food Wythenshawe as they began to change the town’s attitude to healthy eating. That went up opposite the tram stop in 2016. It’s still there.

I was a bit naughty with The Rusholme Sketcher. For over twelve months I’d sat around the cafes and shops sketching the goings-on. I knew not everyone could afford a book once it was published but I wanted local people to see the work. So I stapled the whole book on a boarded-up shop front. The owner, thankfully, was more than happy.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a permanent outdoor exhibition space somewhere in the city, properly funded and professionally curated? Just like our galleries, but outside.