Formerly known as the City Art Gallery, the Manchester Art Gallery houses what is claimed to be one of Britain's best art collections and has recently undergone a £35m makeover. This is the largest of Manchester's Art Galleries, and houses an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures and ceramics, with paintings by Turner, Stubbs and Gainsborough. The collection includes over 2,000 oil paintings, 3,000 watercolours, 250 sculptures and over 10,000 prints.
It also houses one of the largest collections of Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the world, with paintings by Hunt, Rossetti, Madox Brown, Burne-Jones, Arthur Hughes and others. The Decorative Arts Collections include some 12,000 artefacts from various periods and cultures including ceramics, glass and furniture.
The architect was Sir Charles Barry, celebrated architect of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. This elegant symmetrical Greek building, begun in 1825, was built for the Royal Institution, which had been formed in 1823 to promote "the interests of literature, science and the arts, and the obtaining of a channel by which the works of meritorious artists might be brought before the public". Its powerful triangular pediment, supported by heavy Doric columns, dominates Mosley Street, and has a hidden roof-lit entrance hall, which has remained largely unchanged since it was first built.
In 1882 it was transferred to Manchester Corporation who began acquiring works of art to create this large collection, which, nowadays, spills over into the old Athenaeum Building behind - this is also the subject of considerable refurbishment and a novel soultion to joining two great Manchester buildings together. The motto for the building reads "Nihilpulchrum nisi utile" (Nothing beautiful unless useful).