Manchester’s regeneration has enabled the city to go well beyond the municipal art galleries and museums to be found in elsewhere and to branch out into more innovative forms. Urbis is the star of that show. Not only is the museum an architectural wonder, it brings Manchester a first for content. Urbis is museum to the modern city.
Dtroit focuses on the popular culture – Motown to Eminem – that has kept Detroit on the map as every other aspect of its social fabric has disintegrated. It’s fair to say that Manchester has a near identical experience, albeit on a smaller scale, but that we’ve managed to take that pop culture and make it a theme of regeneration. So it’s no surprise to hear the creators of Detroit techno animatedly discuss cruising their city to New Order, Duritti Column et al. The absence of social history does let the show down, but you can spend hours blissfully listening to anything from Jackie Wilson to the White Stripes on iPods.
Katharine wore her Saatchi Gallery t-shirt in a show of solidarity with the YBAs who lost work in this week’s Momart fire. That event brought a predicable reaction from the likes of the Daily Mail, who have always been ashamed of contemporary Britain. The YBAs have done much to create an image of Britain abroad that has given us a place on the contemporary art map. The Daily Mail, on the other hand is a newspaper so ashamed of its heritage it keeps pre-war archives locked away (supported Hitler’s allies the British Union of Fascists). Today its contribution remains wholly negative as it injects nothing but bile and xenophobia into British culture.
Innovation is brave, whinging is cheap and Urbis, like the YBAs, has more than it’s a fair share of detractors. Local Liberal Democrats even call for its conversion into commercial office space, albeit as part of wider campaign to end the city’s party culture. But Urbis is beginning to deliver.