You can tell from outside that this place is good – a stunning classic Gothic revival building… I don’t want to over hype the already high expectations of this building re-opening, but on visiting, it is really something special and actually worth the hype.

I’ve always had fond memories of The McManus Galleries/Museum in Dundee – my mum was a librarian there in the 70s; when I was wee I would run up and down the outside staircase hiding from the Queen Victoria statue (she still scares me!); and at art school I would studiously draw old things… So I was delighted to hear about the chance to have a sneak preview before it re-opens later this month.

As soon as you enter, you appreciate how different it is – the ground floor entrance has been switched around and you notice the lack of clutter – the mish mash of shop fittings and the dark and dusty feelings have gone.  It’s light, airy – old and new are well balanced and the space gives you time to appreciate all the fantastic architecture in the main Gothic hall. I found myself looking up into the roofs and rafters as much as looking at the art on the walls!

The familiar old main spiral staircase is also really bright with an amazing domed wooden beamed ceiling – I can’t recall this feature from the past, but staff tell us it’s always been there, just very much in the dark (because the Battle of Camperdown painting hung there – all the windows had to be blocked up because of potential light damage).

We visit three galleries – and as we go up the stairs we see David Batchelor’s ‘Dundee Walldella’ – we are the first outsiders to see this piece – a psychedelic array of 200 multi coloured plastic containers lit up down the corner, like something you might find in Willy Wonka’s factory – it’s fabulous and happy – it could be great light therapy for those depressed by the dreich weather outside!

As a young child, the Victorian, Edwardian and Scottish painting galleries were always scary and ominous… lots of eyes watching you (similar to my statue fear)… But really the collection is immense – the Dundee jute barons paid for the original collection and has been updated with new additions – one arrived last week. It also has the 1st painted depiction of a football game and the finest Rossetti in a Scottish collection – Dante’s Dream.

Yesterday the news came that the McManus will display the National Gallery (and NGScotland) recent £50m Titian acquisition in August this year – a great coup as only 3 Scottish galleries have been selected.

image: Ross McLean

The ‘Here and Now’ gallery will host temporary and touring exhibitions, it was nice to see DoJ graduate David Mach’s dragon(?) with chess pawn was still high up in the rafters – although he’s now a lot easier to see up there!

The ‘World Cultures’ gallery has a fascinating display of Dundee’s well travelled influence on the world – through all the J’s and the shipping trade!

Our star guide Keri laments that it’s a shame that a generation of art students have missed out on this for the last 4 yrs it’s been closed – hopefully it will draw them back for a visit soon – it’s well worth it.

Although we don’t have time to visit the museum, I’m delighted to hear that the whale is still hanging there – he has been missed!

The museum/gallery has been brought in line with the likes of my personal greats – the Kelvingroves and the Musee Dorsays. Speaking to my fellow CSers, there’s an overwhelming feeling that people are going to love it.

A full day trip will be in order when it re-opens on the 28th Feb – I can’t wait.

Thank you Central Station, it’s been memorable!


To find out what Dundee Popup was all about or to read more reviews & blogs  from the day, click here.