From pivotal moments in fashion and a riotously absurd fast food satire to stirring tales of evacuation and a new blockbuster nature installation, Manchester stages another unrivalled summer showcase of world-beating art, literature, historical exploration and immersive experiences with an eclectic programme of exhibitions across its internationally renowned museums, galleries and cultural spaces.

John Lyons: Carnivalesque | The Whitworth | Fri 10 May - Sun 25 Aug | FREE

Open to visitors throughout the summer, the first major retrospective exhibition of renowned Caribbean British artist and poet John Lyons celebrates a remarkable six-decade career with an unmissable showcase of his breathtaking paintings, drawings, woodcuts, sculptures and textbooks.

Centred chiefly on his pivotal artistic exploration of Trinidadian folklore and mythology, Carnivalesque is both a long-overdue recognition of Lyons’ work as an artist and an intensely profound meditation on the arts ecosystem in Manchester, West Yorkshire and Britain as a broader matrix of creativity.

The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M15 6ER
Wild | Manchester Museum | Wed 5 Jun - Sun 1 Jun 2025 | Tickets available soon

Opening on Wed 5 Jun and running for a year, Manchester Museum’s bold new exhibition Wild follows the runaway success of Golden Mummies of Egypt to explore our precarious but optimistic dynamic with the natural world, taking over the Exhibition Hall with fascinating examination of the ways in which people around the world are rebuilding our connections with a planet in jeopardy.

Featuring an immersive installation, audio, film and interactive elements, as well as an array of natural history collections and artworks, Wild transports visitors across a captivatingly diverse global topography and a wide array of voices, from Aboriginal elders to academic researchers, to champion the innovative methods used to restore biodiversity and shape a sustainable future environment while challenging how we think about and interact with nature.

Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL
Sea of Shadows | Instituto Cervantes | Fri 14 Jun-Fri 19 Jul | FREE

On display at Manchester’s Spanish language workshop hub and cultural space, Sea of Shadows illuminates the lesser-known stories of the four thousand Basque girls and boys who were evacuated to Great Britain at the height of the Spanish Civil War.

Between March and June of 1937, when the Basque Country was a besieged theatre of devastating chaos, families across the region made the agonising choice to send their children abroad for protection, many of them arriving in late-stage Peacetime Britain. Sea of Shadows uncovers remarkable unseen photographs and materials – alongside an array of spellbinding original artworks – which chart an incredible journey and shared life around the country, honouring their memory while contemplating the unique legacy upheld by subsequent generations

On the opening night, there will be a presentation of the exhibition and details about the project accompanied by a glass of wine per guest.

Book your visit below.

Instituto Cervantes Manchester, 326-330 Deansgate, Campfield Avenue Arcade, M3 4FN
Sweet Dreams | Aviva Studios | Thu 11 Jul-Sun 1 Sep | £7.50-£25

From Thu 11 Jul, award-winning art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast takes over Aviva Studios with an immersive and deliciously surreal visual extravaganza which digs into grand existential ideas about appetite, desire and our place in the food chain.

Billed as a playful, satirical, all-consuming sensory barrage which blends motion graphics, gaming and cinema, Sweet Dreams invites guests into the kaleidoscopic world of a declining fast food empire from the golden age of child-focused marketing and turbocharged E-numbers. Facing an uncertain future, cynically wacky in-house mascot Chicky Ricky embarks on a quest to discover what people really want, leading visitors on a gleefully off-kilter journey into the bizarre world of modern food production and our consumer impulses.

Book your tickets to Marshmallow Laser Feast’s unmissable immersive exhibition below.

The Warehouse, Aviva Studios, Water Street, Manchester, M3 4JQ
Stephen Hawking at Work | Science and Industry Museum | Until Sep 2025 | FREE

Free to visit until an extended date of September 2025, the exclusive display Stephen Hawking at Work celebrates the extraordinary life of the world-renowned theoretical physicist through a vast array of authentic objects from his office, including his PhD thesis, a wager he made with his peers on whether everything that falls into a black hole is forever lost to our universe, and an invitation to a party for time travellers that Hawking hosted – famous for reinforcing his theory that backward time travel is impossible, having sent the invites after the party had actually happened.

In addition, the display features a selection of astonishingly rare mementoes from Hawking’s multifaceted media career, including a jacket gifted to him by the creators of The Simpsons and a cast photo from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The display will also provide revelatory insight into Hawking’s links to Manchester, as discoveries by scientists in the city cleared the path to develop two of the most important ideas about our universe – quantum theory and general relativity – while his experience of motor neurone disease is explored through examples of the innovative technologies behind his wheelchair and pioneering vocal synthesizer.

Science and Industry Museum, Liverpool Road, Manchester M3 4FP
Unpicking Couture | Manchester Art Gallery | Until Sun 12 Jan 2025 | FREE

Also free to enter, Manchester Art Gallery’s spellbinding exhibition Unpicking Couture celebrates groundbreaking moments in the history of fashion with a collection of stunning pieces from across the last century, with works by Christian Dior, Azzedine Alaïa, Cristobal Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin, Vivienne Westwood, Yohji Yamamoto, Bruce Oldfield and Alexander McQueen, as well as a recently restored 1930s silk velvet jacket by Italian couturier Elsa Schiaparelli.

Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley St, Manchester M2 3JL
Banner Exhibition 2024 | People’s History Museum | Until Mon 30 Dec | FREE

Curated to recognise over a century of national public fortitude, this year’s Banner Exhibition delivers another sweeping textile timeline of ground-breaking protests and social unity in the long, tireless struggle for the rights we have today, with twenty-six historic and contemporary banners on display and free to explore.

Featuring art across history marbled with defiance, from trade union placards and Miners’ Strike slogans to more recent campaigns on disability and migrant rights, the exhibition occupies a quarter of the People’s History Museum for almost a full year.

Left Bank, Manchester M3 3ER
Words:
Wolf McFarlane
Published on:
Thu 16 May 2024