Memory of the Future - Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

A personal favourite, The Pet Shop Boys' song Memory of the Future seems an appropriate title to describe the unveiling of the new Birmingham History galleries at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG). The new gallery has opened a whole wing of the museum, revealing both the history of the city but the history of the museum itself, by revealing architectural features that were boarded up, partitioned or concealed, Hidden areas of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery revealed in £9m project.

Since opening more than 100 years ago, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has become home to more than half a million artefacts. You can find everything from Renaissance masterpieces to 9,000-year old Middle Eastern treasures.
The opening of the galleries, titled Birmingham: Its People, Its History, in October 2012 has brought together an introduction to the city for both visitors and residents and includes over 1000 exhibit items.  The exhibition, albeit light in depth, provides a glimpse into the achievements of the city and ties in with the recent City Council's consideration of what makes us Brummies report , Where the world meets - Brummies.  This report highlighted the role history can play for the city in bridging the communities that make up Birmingham and the new history galleries provide a timely link to report's conclusions.

But as an overview, it serves its core purpose so brilliantly it might have been called: “Birmingham... we never knew there was so much to it”.

“Birmingham has been immensely important both nationally and internationally for many centuries, and what we are trying to bring out through these galleries is not only how important we have been to the rest of the world, but how important the rest of the world has been to Birmingham. It shows how important migration has always been and still is to the community.

Among the 1000 items exhibited include a model of medieval Birmingham and Charles Ernest Cundall's painting The destruction of the BSA Factory.

The new galleries have proved a popular draw to the museum on top of the Staffordshire Hoard, Birmingham to hoard Anglo Saxon Gold as Staffordshire Hoard saved for the nation, and existing collections such as the world renowned Pre-Raphaelite art collection, Royal Raphaelite boost for 
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  Indeed some of the collections of the BMAG continue to draw visitors and admirers from far afield with the Wall Street Journal's article looking at Jacob Epstein noting his Rock Drill, reconstructed for a 1974 exhibition and purchased by the BMAG as being an inspiration for sculptors,

On top of these BMAG collections the Museum and Art Gallery is also hosting two exhibitions which are proving extremely popular and highlight the role of the museum in bringing together communities and reflecting on the past and present while looking to the future.

Following a successful exhibition at the British Museum, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is hosting the Fortress Turban, known as a Dastaar Boonga, worn by a group of skilled warrior Sikhs called Akali Nihangs, Sikh 'Fortress Turban' to go on display at museum.  The exhibition, running from 26 January to 28 April 2013, will tour five other UK venues but has started it's tour in Birmingham where Birmingham's Sikh community will contribute to explaining why the turban remains important to them today.

Meanwhile an extremely popular exhibition of works from the Government Art Collection is nearing the end of it's successful tour to Birmingham,, ending on 24 February 2013.  The exhibition has brought together works historical and contemporary that are usually displayed in British Government buildings across the world.

This is a specially selected collection of almost 200 different works of art from Lowry to Warhol.
Many are very diverse, others are different but chosen to be complementary.
All are taken from British Government buildings across the world and, in situ, been privy to many a confidential conversation.
Contributors to the selection process include artist Cornelia Parker, historian Simon Schama and politicians including Lord Mandelson, Lord Boateng, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and staff from 10 Downing Street.

While these visiting exhibitions have looked forward, a new collection of internationally significant contemporary art, Major new £1m art collection to open in Birmingham this March, will see the Museum and Art Gallery move forward too, showing for the first time publicly the joint collection of international contemporary art it has acquired with the New Art Gallery Walsall,  

Metropolis: Reflections on the modern city contains over 60 works by some of the world’s most exciting artists, each offering views of the modern global city. It has been funded with over £1million from national fundraising charity the Art Fund.
Opening at a time of budget cut-backs in the arts, the collection is a significant boost to the West Midlands region’s cultural life. Metropolis: Reflections on the modern city has been collected by BMAG and the New Art Gallery, Walsall thanks to Art Fund International, a major scheme set up by the Art Fund which has supported the development of outstanding contemporary art in five museum partnerships around the UK. Entrance to the exhibition is free.

The funding of the collection through the Art Fund comes as the Arts Council England have awarded a £457,000 grant to the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham,

Ikon will modernize its Grade II-listed Oozells Street School building – its home since 1998 – with a £457,000 grant from the Arts Council.

“Our focus will be on making essential improvements to our galleries, such as upgrading our IT and lighting systems,” said Deputy DirectorDeborah Kermode, pointing to the gallery’s famous singing lift and an original artwork by former Turner Prize winner Martin Creed as initial beneficiaries.
“Many of these areas will offer substantial long-term savings to Ikon. We are extremely grateful to the Arts Council for supporting us. This was a very competitive application process.”


Anonymous said…
I've recently reviewed BM&AG's Metropolis, talking about what this might mean for the changing art scene in Birmingham and the West Midlands.

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