This year local artist Ian McKay brings a contemporary new exhibition based on the architecture of Collier Street Baths, to Salford Museum and Art Gallery.
Collier Street Baths, which is just off Trinity Way in Salford in the Greengate area of the city, is a Grade II listed building designed by Salfordian Thomas Worthington, who is considered one of Manchester’s greatest 19th century architects. He designed many of Manchester’s public buildings including The Albert Memorial and Memorial Hall in Albert Square, and the City Police Courts.
The ‘Greengate Baths’ is the oldest surviving public baths in Great Britain and has immense historical and architectural importance. The Baths opened in August 1856 and closed in 1880 and have remained derelict since. The building is currently surrounded by scaffolding and is likely to be saved as part of a recent sale of land.
When the baths opened in 1856 by the Manchester and Salford Baths and Laundries Company it was used by 3,476 people in the first two weeks and was considered one of the finest pools in the country.
It was at the beginning of a golden age for public swimming and was used by 50,000 a year at its peak. Oarsman Mark Addy, one of Salford’s most famous sons who rescued more than 50 people from drowning in the then highly polluted River Irwell during his lifetime, learned to swim at Collier Street Baths.
Having worked in the Greengate area of Salford for many years as a display artist, Ian knew of the derelict former baths having walked past it many times, fascinated by its Italianate architectural splendour.
In 2003, whilst continuing his visual arts practice at Cow Lane Studios, Salford, Ian’s interest in the abandoned gem of a building started to gain momentum. He visited the site several times, undertaking extensive local research and he began to create pieces of art based on its architecture.
Ian completed a collection of drawings and colour studies on location at Collier Street focussing on the exterior of the building, which provided him with the resource material to complete a series of abstract paintings in 2004.
The laundry, boiler house, and chimney have been demolished, the pool’s tiles have gone, and the building has no roof yet McKay has found this abandoned gem a constant source of interest due to its rare laminated roof trusses, crests and typography.
The works in the exhibition include his earlier painting series alongside preparatory studies, photographs and some new pieces. They focus on elements of the building’s exterior architecture reflecting its palette, beauty and splendour, including snippets of typography, exterior highlights and images of both the women’s and men’s pools.
Artist Ian McKay, said:
“Collier Street Baths to me is a crucial part of Salford and Manchester’s social history and I felt the building deserved to have its story told visually. Apart from the fact that Thomas Worthington designed the public building following a visit to Italy, the baths played a huge part in the health and wellbeing of people in both cities and gave people a lot of pleasure so I wanted to create this same feeling with an exhibition that is a tribute to this fine building.”
No stranger to reaching out to his local communities, Ian runs Gorton Visual Arts at the Aviary Community Rooms for elderly residents, vulnerable adults and residents with learning difficulties, in a safe studio environment where new skills are learned and shared with all aspects of the community.
Claire Corrin, Exhibitions Manager at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, said:
“We are delighted to be able to present this exhibition at Salford Museum and Art Gallery. It is a wonderful opportunity to reference the social history of the city and bring it to life for audiences in an alternative way.”
The Collier Street Baths exhibition runs until 26 April 2020. There will be a programme of activity to support the exhibition – please visit the museum website for details.
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