Museum celebrations see three new exhibitions open
There were celebrations at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery last week as the historic venue reopened for its first event since 2020.
The Grade II-listed building, which is also home to Warrington Central Library, has been closed for around 16 months due to pandemic restrictions followed by essential roof repairs. But the great and the good of the north west art scene gathered there on Thursday for a private view of three new temporary exhibitions.
Contemporary artists Ruby Tingle, Christopher Shaw and Steve Sutton all attended for their moment in the spotlight in anticipation of the museum and gallery reopening to the public on Saturday, 23 April.
But installing the exhibitions represented a hectic fortnight of preparations for the museum team who have just got their home back after extensive maintenance work on the 170-year-old building’s roof, costing around £360,000. It was a race against time with the last piece of scaffolding taken down on the day of the event.
Ruby Tingle presented Lagoons – her new intriguing work inspired by the museum’s amphibian and reptiles collection. She is also a musician and treated the audience to a small collection of her original electronica songs, which acted as companion pieces to her visual art and sculptures, on the night.
It was one of the first live performances to take place at the venue but it went down so well that the team are hoping to plan similar showcases in future.
The private view also saw former Bridgewater High student Christopher Shaw unveil his first solo exhibition of striking figurative and abstract paintings. Under the title Patiently Waiting, the Appleton resident has brought a huge collection of around 50 artworks to the museum, representing about six years of work.
The 32-year-old has taken inspiration from a wide range of subjects from ancient artefacts to classic stories like Alice in Wonderland as well as his own life experiences and battles with mental health.
Steve Sutton completes the diverse and multi-talented trio of exhibiting artists. He came to the attention of Culture Warrington – the charity that runs Warrington Museum and Art Gallery – while using Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces Warrington (the former M&S store) as a studio space.
Steve’s explores issues of climate change and sustainability, mostly through the inventive use of wood from fallen trees for his largescale pieces.
The piece that caught the eye of curators at Culture Warrington was Raised Bed – a thought-provoking statement about climate change and our dependence on the natural world.
Another key piece from the ‘Precarious Existence’ exhibition is a fallen tree from the edge of Steve’s allotment that has been painstakingly turned into a spiralling form to make people think of weather patterns and the extremely powerful forces that exist around our planet.
Steve said: “Thanks to the brilliant support I’ve had from Culture Warrington, I’m feeling exceedingly pleased with the way my progress has evolved over the past 12 months. I can’t believe it. I feel honoured to be invited to have a show at the museum – the quirkiness of this institution fits these three exhibitions perfectly. I think it’s lovely.”
Leah Biddle, Cultural Manager at Culture Warrington, added: “It’s been wonderful to launch three new exhibitions and invite supporters back to the museum after such a long time. It’s always great to launch a new exhibition but to finally be back in our charming and historic home has made it even more special.
“Ruby, Christopher and Steve are very different but equally talented and we’re proud to continue to support both established artists and newcomers in a range of mediums. It’s made us even more excited about reopening our doors to the public this Saturday.”
Warrington Museum and Art Gallery will reopen to the public this Saturday with a family-friendly takeover of the entire building between 10am and 4pm. All are welcome.
Exhibition title: Ruby Tingle: Lagoons / Christopher Shaw: Patiently Waiting / Steve Sutton: Precarious Existence
Dates: 23 April – 26 June
Location: Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, Museum Street, Warrington, WA1 1JB