Manchester International Festival unveils new home - Museums Association

Manchester International Festival unveils new home

Aviva Studios cost £210m and is Arts Council England's largest investment in a capital project
Aviva Studios render
Aviva Studios render Image by OMA

The results of Arts Council England’s (ACE) largest-ever investment in a capital project can now be seen with the opening of this year’s Manchester International Festival (MIF).

More than £210m has been spent on Aviva Studios, the new home of festival organiser Factory International. The arts council has given £106.5m to the project, which has also received support from Manchester City Council.

“We have invested a total of £106m from the UK government and the National Lottery players’ money,” said ACE chief executive Darren Henley. “It looks brilliant – an investment well-made.

“Manchester International Festival has built a worldwide reputation for innovation and creativity, rivalling any of the other great festivals from around the world, with the confidence and the pizazz to do what it does in a uniquely Mancunian way.”

Factory International said its new venue will create and support up to 1,500 direct and indirect jobs and will add £1.1bn to Manchester’s economy over a decade.

Yayoi Kusama and Dots Obsession, installation view, the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner

Aviva Studios opened with a site-specific exhibition of work by Yayoi Kusama, which is part of MIF 23. You, Me and the Balloons (until 28 August) brings together the Japanese artist’s most significant inflatable artworks from the past 30 years. 


The exhibition shows the potential of the new venue, being the first large-scale presentation of Kusama’s work since her retrospective at Tate Modern in 2012.

The building was designed by Ellen van Loon, a partner at architectural practice OMA. It is the largest cultural project to open in England since Tate Modern in 2000. Construction work started in July 2017 and the venue will be officially opened in October.

The development of the capital project was led by Manchester City Council in partnership with Factory International.

It was announced on 20 June that the new venue would be sponsored by insurance firm Aviva, in a £35m deal. 

Manchester City Council leader Bev Craig said: “It has undoubtedly been a challenge to create this remarkable building with its unique design against a difficult construction context, including rocketing inflation, without diluting the ambitious vision behind it.

“The new partnership [with Aviva] helps make this possible, as well as supporting Factory International’s ongoing success and work with the community to open up access to the arts and training opportunities. The council will receive the largest share of funding, supporting our up-front investment in the venue and the wider St John’s neighbourhood, as well as adding social value.”


Factory International, which will deliver a year-round programme of work at Aviva Studios, as well as the biennial festival, is one of ACE’s largest National Portfolio Organisations (NPO). It will receive almost £30m over three years from the arts council.

Two cultural venues in the north of England did not fare so well in last year’s ACE funding announcement – Oldham Coliseum and the Side Gallery in Newcastle both lost their NPO status.

Oldham Coliseum closed on 31 March, although ACE said it is investing more funding than ever before in the Greater Manchester town over the next three years.

The Side Gallery, which is dedicated to photography, closed on 9 April but has has since raised more than £67,000 through a Crowdfunder campaign in an effort to secure its future.

Visual arts at MIF 23

A performance work created by the artist Tino Sehgal developed with former Manchester United player Juan Mata is being held at the National Football Museum as part of this year’s Manchester International Festival (MIF).

The work is called This Entry and is the first in a series of 11 collaborations between artists and footballers that will be developed over the next two years, culminating in a group show at the 2025 edition of the festival. The remaining collaborations have not yet been announced.

The project is called The Trequartista – Art and Football United. Trequartista is a position and style in football that is rapidly disappearing.

The project has been co-curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and developed by writer Josh Willdigg.

This Entry will be performed at the National Football Museum until 5 July and the move to Manchester’s Whitworth art gallery from 7 July until 16 July, when MIF 23 ends.

The Whitworth is also holding another festival exhibition that runs until 22 October and sees artists and arts organisations explore ideas of value, ownership, trade and economy. Economics the Blockbuster: It’s Not Business As Usual includes a community-led drinks company, a collective that is reclaiming plantation land in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and artists and makers that are part of Tŷ Pawb, an arts centre in Wrexham.

The exhibition was initiated by former Whitworth director Alistair Hudson and has been shaped by a collaborative group led by Poppy Bowers, the interim head of exhibitions at the gallery.

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