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An electric new £20,000 art commission launched in Manchester

For immediate release

A new £20,000 art commission to explore the vital, yet invisible, force of electricity is up for grabs thanks to the Museum of Science and Industry, in partnership with Electricity North West and Manchester Science Festival 2018.

This commission is for a brand-new art work, developed along the theme of ‘keeping you switched on’, to be included in the exhibition Electricity: The Spark of Life. The exhibition is the first headliner to be announced for Manchester Science Festival 2018.

The commissioned work should explore the future demands on electricity. It could look at how innovation can support future demands, at our behaviours using and managing electricity, innovation around smart appliances, smart homes and renewable energies.

Created in partnership with Wellcome Collection in London and Teylers Museum in Haarlem, the exhibition will run for six months at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, opening in October 2018.

Antonio Benitez, Director of the Manchester Science Festival, said: “Electricity is a vital, yet invisible, part of our lives, and this major exhibition will show how this force is fundamental to human life and has captivated inventors, scientists and artists alike for centuries.

“At a time when we are more reliant on electricity than ever before, the exhibition will ask us to contemplate our ongoing relationship with electricity, the environmental impact of our choices and imagine what the future might look like.

“The commissioned art work will aim to create debate about the proposed themes and we are particularly interested in receiving proposals for moving image and/or immersive art work.”

Electricity North West Chief Executive, Peter Emery, said: “Electricity is crucial to almost everything we do—from heating and lighting to home working, online streaming and shopping, downloading your favourite boxset and keeping in touch with friends and family.

“We operate the network that connects every home and business in the North West to the grid and there's a revolution taking place in the way energy is being generated, delivered and used. More and more of us are moving to low carbon electricity to heat our homes and charge our cars, and even generating our own power through solar panels.

“We're at the forefront of this innovation in the North West and we're delighted to be showcasing the importance of the future of energy through this work with the Museum of Science and Industry.”

How to apply

Please provide us with a proposal for your idea of up to 750 words, and include any information you can about what you need to make it happen (e.g. budget, resources, anticipated technical and installation requirements etc.) Your proposal should be accompanied by a CV (one side of A4 only) and examples of your previous work (up to three sides of A4 only, including links to video files) in PDF format. The deadline for proposals is Sunday, February 11.

The £20,000 commission is inclusive of artist fee and all related productions costs. Please contact for further details.


  • Announcement of commission: Thursday 18 January 2018
  • Deadline for proposals: Sunday 11 February (midnight)
  • Notification of selection: Friday 16 February
  • Interviews: Thursday 1 March
  • Winner notified, and contracts agreed: Tuesday 6 March
  • Public announcement of winner: Monday 19 March
  • Development of project: Tuesday 6 March – Friday 4 May
  • Final details into exhibition design submission: Wednesday 9 May
  • PR activity: Monday 3 September – Tuesday 16 October
  • MSF and exhibition launch: Wednesday 17 October 2018

Selection criteria

A small number of artists will be invited to interview. The following criteria will be considered in the selection of the commission:

  • Artistic quality
  • Relevance to the exhibition and commission themes
  • Expressed preference for moving image and/or immersive art work
  • Ability to engage MSI's audiences
  • Suitability for MSI's Temporary Exhibition Gallery (contact us for more details)
  • Durability in an exhibition that will run for six months and host over 100,000 visitors
  • Ability to deliver on time and within budget
  • Availability to attend interview on Thursday 1 March 2018

The selection panel will include:

  • Pete Emery, CEO, Electricity North West
  • Antonio Benitez, Director, Manchester Science Festival
  • Curator, Wellcome Collection, London
  • Paul Bonaventura, Consultant Curator and Exhibition Originator, Electricity: The spark of life
  • Jan Hicks, Lead Curator and Archives Manager, Museum of Science and Industry
  • Theresa Macaulay, Exhibition Project Manager, Museum of Science and Industry

Download the full information pack


For more information or interview requests, please contact Kat Harrison-Dibbits, Press and PR Manager, on 0161 606 0176 or email


The Museum of Science and Industry tells the story of where science met industry and the modern world began. Manchester was one of the first global, industrial cities, and its epic rise, decline and resurrection has been echoed in countless other cities around the world. From textiles to computers, the objects and documents held in the museum’s collection tell stories of everyday life over the last 200 years, from light bulbs to locomotives.  The museum’s mission is to inspire all its visitors, including future scientists and inventors, with the story of how ideas can change the world, from the industrial revolution to today and beyond.

The Museum of Science and Industry is part of the Science Museum Group, a family of museums which also includes the Science Museum in London; the National Railway Museum in York and Shildon; and the Science and Media Museum in Bradford. The Science Museum Group is devoted to the history and contemporary practice of science, medicine, technology, industry and media. With five million visitors each year and an unrivalled collection, it is the most significant group of museums of science and innovation worldwide.


Produced by the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester Science Festival is a creative, playful and surprising science festival taking place across Greater Manchester. We are the largest science festival in England and the North’s premiere cultural celebration of all things related to science and innovation.

Dubbed ‘part laboratory, part playground’, the Festival invites over 100,000 visitors to join us at more than 120 unique and extraordinary events every year, ranging from art installations and theatre to comedy, debates and workshops.

About Electricity North West

Electricity North West is the region's electricity distribution network operator. We work 24/7/365 to power the lives of five million people in the North West. From heating homes to charging cars and streaming TV shows, we work to keep you switched on for today and tomorrow.

We’re investing £1.8bn from 2015–2023 in the overhead lines and underground cables that serve the region and last year delivered the best reliability ever seen in the North West.

The way we use electricity is changing rapidly. We're at the forefront of energy innovation, working with local communities, key stakeholders and expert partners to ensure everyone has the power they need when they need it.

Visit for more information and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. During a power cut or other emergency, check for updates online or call us on 105.

Part of the Science Museum Group