After almost two years with its doors closed due to COVID Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has finally reopened.
The art gallery in chamberlain square, situated within Birmingham town centre, reopened its doors partially on Thursday, April 28, to visitors.
The museum owned by Birmingham Museums Trust had been closed since October 2020 due to COVID and renovations.
Visitors clearly were thrilled to be able to return to the site as floods of people came in to the museum from the opening time.
As someone who has visited the museum since I was five, I decided to attend the partial site opening day. Here is a look at some of my favourite aspects of each of the six displays I was able to visit on my trip.
We are Birmingham
We Are Birmingham aims to reflect the people of 21st Century Birmingham. This aim is reached through the presentation of a unique and vivid celebration of the city that Birmingham is now, as well as providing aspirational thoughts on the future of the city. The main aim of the exhibition is to present representation and complex histories within the heritage sector. The exhibition is incredibly unique and vitally important now as it demonstrates the history of Birmingham and the variety of people and cultures that call the city home.
Sarah Maple- Empire
This piece of art was created through the medium of oil on canvas. The piece is inspired by advertisements of the Empire marketing board, a small government organisation, whose job it was to convince consumers to ‘buy empire.’
Within the piece Maple depicts herself as a modern product of the empire as she has a British father and a mother born in Kenya, she also grew up in Birmingham and possess links to the Punjab area of India.
The piece is an ironic take on the empire which aims to showcase the complexities and difficulties of possessing a multicultural identity. The humanity within the piece can certainly be felt due to the fact that it is a personal story for Maple.
Irene Welburn- Victoria in her square
This piece of art was created through the medium of oil on a hardboard. The piece was painted within the 1950’s era and shows the queen Victoria square before the famous Birmingham landmark of the fountains was created.
For anyone who grew up in Birmingham this historic interpretation of an area is something you can understand well. Historic changes and developments of landscapes has always fascinated me and being able to view the difference through art is unique. The piece demonstrates that not only have the people of Birmingham changed and developed over time but so have the landmarks and streets.
Birmingham Museum and art gallery has been open for nearly 150 years after first opening in 1885. This exhibition aims to showcase some of the extraordinary, varied and important works the museum has gained over its vast time. The collection aims to provide a brief window into the people, events and stories that have shaped Birmingham over time.
Joos De Momper III, Jan Brueghel I and assistants- Autumn
This piece of art was created through the medium of oil on a wooden panel. Unfortunately, the piece was in the museum store in poor condition. However, luck changed for the piece when it featured on BBC4’s ‘Britain’s lost masterpieces’ in 2019, after featuring it went through a process of research and cleaning.
This saved the piece and transformed it into magnificent, detailed piece able to visitors to view today. My favourite aspect of the painting is how the figures that are painted in red and blue stand out on the brown background which would have been an intentional choice.
The teddy bear on display in the exhibition belonged to a young girl who was evacuated from London to Aston during the Second World War. The bear is possibly made from an army blanket as fabrics were in short supply due to fabric and clothing rationing. The bear was gifted by her father who was a solider in the British army. Unique items such as this one are featured everywhere within the museum which is outstanding.
The exhibition examines survival of the human spirit and the power of art in public crises that have occurred in the past and present time. The main themes explored within this exhibit are hope and loss which is achieved through a series of artwork. The idea of this new exhibition is that artwork can help people to process loss, illness, frustration, hopeless, hope or frustration as they will be able to look at art and feel some of those emotions within the work. This is particularly important after the past two years.
John Byam Liston Shaw- Boer war 1900-1901/ Last summer things Were Greener 1901
This piece of art was created through the medium of oil on a canvas. The subtitle for this piece refers to a line in Christina Rossetti’s poem ‘A Bird Song.’ The individual painted within the piece is a Victorian woman and is shown to be thinking in the greenery within the painting.
The colours chosen for this piece are perfect as they have a calming effect on anyone who observes the painting. The little additions to the green background are perfect as they add to the piece rather than distract. The woman within the painting does not feel lonely despite being alone which demonstrates that you do not have to feel as alone in nature.
In The Que
In The Que is an exhibition which aims to celebrate of one of the UK’s music venues. Que was and was a live music venue and home of Rave and Dance culture in the city of Birmingham and the whole UK. The club was located within the Grade II* listed Methodist Central Hall within the town centre.
The exhibition comprises of personal artefacts, photographs, flyers, posters and other materials which provides the exhibit with a personal and relatable touch.
The two cases of venue tickets were particularly interesting as they were all different shapes colours and sizes. The piece is well curated to catch the attention of visitors. The piece also works incredibly well as everyone can relate as every individual has been to a venue or concert at least once. As the history is more recent personal stories are easy to find which adds to the overall feel.
The Blacklash exhibition showcases the struggles of Asian and African Caribbean communities against street and state racism recorded by Mukhtar Dar over two decades starting in the 1980’s.
Dar was one of the founding member of the Sheffield Asian Youth Movement and he later joined the Birmingham Asian Youth Movement.
Most importantly Dar became the unofficial artist of the largest grassroots movement. The exhibition draws on his vast archive full of photographic, video, and political items with the aim of exploring what activist Ambalavaner Sivanandan described as ‘racism that kills and racism that discriminates’.
Beats of resistance
Mukhtar Dar views art and culture as important tools for social justice. He drew on a large amount of different art forms and traditions to use within his struggles. He played the drum on demonstrations, created posters, banners and leaflets for campaigns. The piece striking and interesting as it is set out in an incredibly simple way which allows the objects to speak for themselves.
The slogan ‘No justice, just us’ can be seen clearly on some of the artefacts and it is certainly the kind of exhibit that makes you want to learn more.
This exhibition explores how cinema has shaped the streets and social lives of the people who live in Birmingham. The display will showcase unseen photographs and cinema memorabilia in a unique and engaging way that tells the story of how cinema developed and changed within the city over time. Cinema has been a past time for people for a long time and has meant a lot of different things to people throughout history.
The magic lantern displayed was made in England in the 1870’s and can be seen alongside its film slides. Magic lanterns were a popular form of entertainment in the 1800’s. They worked by projecting images from the glass slides inserted into the magic lantern on to large screens. The items features within this exhibition additionally due to the fact that Birmingham based scientist Joseph Priestley used them within his teaching.
It clearly demonstrates just how far cinema has come since the 1800’s. The craftsmanship that went into creating the piece is superb and even the hinges are ornate. The slides are easily the most fascinating part as they are so dainty yet so vivid. It is very clear what is displayed upon them and that is truly outstanding work.