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Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 12:23 GMT
Art-lovers stoke gallery hopes
Manchester City Art Gallery building works
Building is under way at the Manchester City Art Gallery
Officials at the Manchester City Art Gallery, which is due to reopen next year, are revising projected visitor figures because of the success of other art galleries.

When the Manchester City Art Gallery closed in 1998 for a 25m transformation it commissioned research that showed a relatively low set of visitor figures for the first years after opening.

Since then some highly successful gallery openings - particularly Tate Modern in London, The Lowry in Salford Quays and the New Gallery at Walsall - have caused them to think again.

1998 projections now being revised
Year 1: 180,000 visitors
Year 2: 215,000
Year 3: 260,000+

The gallery's Kim Gowland said: "There is an ever increasing buzz about the visual arts in this country and we think we may get lots more visitors than we expected when we closed."

The Lowry, a general arts centre near central Manchester, expected some 2,000 visitors daily. In fact it got 5,000 a day after it opened in April 1999.

And Tate Modern welcomed 3,000 visitors an hour on its first day.

The Manchester City Art Gallery is conducting research into the kinds of people who are attending these new centres and working out ways of attracting them to their own gallery.

Tate Modern
Tate Modern: an instant hit with visitors and critics

"We have identified 450,000 people within 30 minutes drive who go to places like the Tate and who did not come to Manchester City Art Gallery in the past," said Ms Gowland.

"People want a gallery that is seen as prestigious but also friendly, they want to be offered interpretations of art work and to feel welcome."

This formula of interpretation and accessibility is working at places like Walsall's New Gallery where first year attendance figures are likely to top 250,000.

It could put Manchester City Art Gallery on the visual arts map next year.

"Manchester itself has changed dramatically in recent years and is growing as a tourist destination," said Ms Gowland.

"We want to put Manchester on the map as a cultural destination in the way Walsall is."

When completed the extended and refurbished building will double the space available for exhibitions, including displays of its renowned collection of Pre-Raphaelite works.

The building work is on target and the gallery is due to reopen in March 2002.

See also:

06 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Tate Modern beats Dome
12 Oct 00 | UK
Royals open Lowry centre
27 Dec 00 | Entertainment
The year art was hot
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