For organisers with cultured delegates the world-class Manchester Art Gallery in Mosley Street offers more than 25,000 works of art, including around 2,000 oil paintings, and included in these are famed examples of Pre-Raphaelite works by Millais, Maddox Brown and Holman Hunt as well as paintings by Constable, Turner, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Waterhouse, Hughes, Etty, Lowry, Bacon, Freud, Hockney, Nash and Moore.
The fame of these aside however it is frequently the case at galleries that works by less-known artists can be more memorable for some, and for this observer’s money there are at least three that fell into this category on a recent visit. The Chariot Race (1882) by Alexander von Wagner depicts, on a huge canvas, this cruel and suicidal sport of Roman times, and places the viewer almost under the flailing hooves of the lashed and frantic horses and dangerously close to a chariot that has started to disintegrate. As riveting, in a different way, is Charles-August Mengin’s rather lovely dark-eyed, brooding and bare-breasted Sappho (1877) a Greek poet from 600BC who wrote about love, yearning and reflection, dedicating her poetry to some of the female pupils who studied with her, on the island of Lesbos. And nature lovers will be equally thrilled with The Lady of the Woods (1876) by the British artist John MacWhirter which depicts, in photographic detail, a beautiful silver birch tree standing alone in a valley and towering over the viewer, its delicate top branches and leaves caught in bright sunlight and shimmering gold and gorgeous against an azure sky.
It was also, however a very modern electronic treatment of a 1618 Dutch floral still life, Vase with Flowers in a Window by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, the original in the Maritshaus in The Hague, that lingers on in the memory. Produced by British husband and wife team Rob and Nick Carter the painting has been digitalised and presented as a three-hour loop film where the light and dark through the window goes through a 24-hour cycle as the scene discreetly comes to life, with the flowers opening and closing their petals and moving in the breeze, flies, butterflies and bees visiting the flowers and snails and caterpillars moving slowly up the vase, and over the leaves.
On the business side the gallery has five areas for hire that can accommodate up to 130 theatre-style, or 120 banqueting, 300 for a drinks reception.
Tel 0161 235 8866/8862 manchestergalleries.org