The Whitworth Art Gallery, founded by Robert Dukinfield Darbishire with a donation from Sir Joseph Whitworth, as a source of pleasure and enjoyment for the citizens of Manchester, was the first arts institution to be situated in a public park. Built in 1889, it became part of the University of Manchester in 1958 when the galleries underwent modernisation by architect John Bickerdike, who transformed the Edwardian spaces into a Modernist Scandinavian interior. It now houses an internationally important collection of more than 55,000 works of art.
A large proportion of the collection is made up of work by British artists of the 20th-century including Walter Sickert, David Bomberg, Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth and a small group of works by British Surrealist artists Edward Wadsworth, Roland Penrose, Edward Burra and Conroy Maddox.
The gallery has an active acquisitions programme with recent additions including works by Tracey Emin, Tacita Dean, Michael Landy, Toby Paterson, Rachel Whiteread and Jane and Louise Wilson. The Whitworth also has a renowned collection of textiles, works on paper and wallpapers from the 3rd century to the present.
It is also home to a unique collection of Outsider Art, The Musgrave Kinley Outsider Collection, which consists of over 1153 individual artworks by over 129 artists, brought together by curator Monika Kinley (1925-2014) and gallerist and curator Victor Musgrave (1919-1984) over a period of 30 years (1979-2010) and donated through the Contemporary Art Society.
In 2015, The Whitworth reopened after it was transformed by a redevelopment that doubled its exhibition spaces, restored period features and opened itself up to its surrounding park - the same year it was awarded the Art Fund Museum of the Year.