Credit: Factory International / CHAOS SixtyNine / Chanel

Ben Kelly’s vibrantly colour columns and hazard-striped sculptures popped against the contrasting iron pillars of Manchester’s Victoria Baths last weekend at pop-up show Manchester Modernism: past, present future.

Factory International and CHAOS SixtyNine curated the three-day exhibition (which ran from 8-10 December at the Grade II-listed Victorian baths) with the support of Chanel, following the fashion house’s blockbuster Chanel 2023/24 Métiers d’arts showcase in the city.

Manchester Modern offered visitors the opportunity to unravel the city’s creative history, bringing together works by artists in the fields of photography, music, poetry, design, and crafts that resonated with the spirit of Maisons d’art at le19M within the striking Victorian baths.

Greeting visitors were Kelly’s iconic striped Columns (previously on show at 180 Studios in London). The designer is best known for crafting the interiors of Manchester’s most iconic nightclub, The Haçienda was the radical birthplace of the city’s acid house and rave scene in the 1980s. Kelly’s post-industrial design became a blueprint for nightclubs for 40 years, imitated the world over, with the space famously crossed by thick iron columns, which Kelly covered in black-and-yellow stripes – hazard markings.

The Haçienda’s interior design scheme by Ben Kelly, pictured circa 1982. Credit: Ben Kelly Design

His Columns have taken on their own life in a post-Haçienda age: Kelly uses the form to explore his influences, materials, colour and light – and as a connection between old and new Manchester.

The sculptures have also inspired a generation of other designers, most famously Virgil Abloh, who incorporated Kelly’s diagonal stripes into his Off-White accessories and collaborated with the designer on several subsequent projects.

Also on show were typographic works by legendary art director Peter Saville, who designed artworks for cult label Factory Records, and photography by Martin Parr and Shirley Baker.

Fashion designer and photographer Elaine Constantine shared a personal film reflecting on how Northern Soul shaped her life; there was activist embroidery by Sarah-Joy Ford and poetry by Lemn Sissay and John Cooper Clarke.

In related news, Factory International opened its permanent exhibition and events space, Aviva Studios, earlier this autumn. Designed by OMA, with interiors from Kelly, the multi-functioning, adaptable event space is the lynchpin of the St John’s regeneration project of the former Granada TV studios. It will host the bi-annual Manchester International Festival.

Credit: Factory International / CHAOS SixtyNine / Chanel

Read next: Manchester Museum reopens – and it has a new gallery dedicated to the South Asia diaspora

Seattle’s Supernova nightclub unashamedly embraces disco glitz



Share Tweet