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Arts & Museums
The Gas Hall is really a part of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, but its history makes it worth a mention in its own right. It is actually a large Victorian building adjacent to the main museum and now has access either via the museum or directly from the street. It is so called because the building used to be occupied by the main gas company in the city, and was the place where local people went to pay their gas bills. Since the early 1990s it has been an important space for temporary exhibitions, of which there have been many of international importance. These have so far included exhibitions devoted to Canaletto, ancient China, Mughal India and more recently the Home of Metal. Opening hours are generally for the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, but may be different during specific exhibitions. Check website for more details on current and upcoming events and exact timings.
Housing one of the world's finest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art, with works by Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and Holman Hunt, Birmingham's principal museum and gallery is located in a stunning Victorian building. The museum displays works by British and European artists, along with collections of ceramics, sculpture, silver and stained glass. You can also find archaeological, ethnographic and local history exhibits, including Egyptian mummies. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
Temple Gallery is a contemporary art gallery, which has a good range of work by artists such as Terry Frost, Richard Tuff, Jack Vettriano and Annora Spence. There are original oil and watercolor paintings and some unusual animal sculptures. Lithographic, silk screen and other prints are of limited editions and at affordable prices. There's not much that is cheap here, but the range is good and you are free to wander around without being hassled by over-zealous staff.
Birmingham's Ikon Gallery is one of Europe's premier venues for new art. Along with art exhibitions, the gallery also organizes public talks, gallery tours and special events. Conveniently situated just off Broad Street, in the fabulously trendy Brindleyplace complex, the gallery has two floors (440 square meters) of exhibition space. There is also a special education and events room, a resource area for visitors, a cafe and an art bookshop.
Established in 2008, Eastside Projects is a contemporary art gallery that is forever changing. Managed by a group of designers and artists, the gallery is a work of art in itself housed within an old industrial space. The gallery regularly commissions artwork and organizes exhibitions covering a range of mediums and themes. Apart from the temporary exhibitions, the gallery is also home to a number of long-term projects and programmes, some of which have become a permanent feature, evolving and growing along with the gallery itself. Through these programmes, the gallery aims to enrich the lives of the community it resides within, and explore how art can contribute to society.
A new initiative, B16 became operational in July 1999. Its intention is to provide a program of exhibitions for local artists, with an emphasis on contemporary, innovative visual art. Film and music events are also planned. It is more than just a venue for art, as B16 provides a meeting place for artists to exchange ideas.
Established in 2001, the Thinktank (Birmingham Science Museum) is located with the Millennium point complex. The hands-on museum is an exciting place for children and adults alike. Within the fours storied building, each floor symbolizes a theme. There are scientific demonstrations, future exhibitions that talk about technology and inventions including the study of robotics, that are path-breaking and thus have drawn large crowds. With over 200 scientific displays, the museum draws curious science addicts from all over. A visit to this museum calls for a fun and educational outing. Check website for more details.
The Bond Gallery specializes in contemporary art, and has a lively and wide-ranging programs of exhibitions. Call for more details.
United Kingdom's only museum dedicated to educating visitors about the pen manufacturing industry, The Pen Museum offers a glimpse into the history of this industry. A visit to The Pen Museum reveals why Birmigham has been the hub of steel pen trade. This museum also offers in-depth information about the workers and employers involved in pen making business and provides abundant information about the various pen brands and companies. Apart from the historical exhibits, this museum also allows visitors to test their writing skills using a steel pen. Also, visitors can try their hand at making their own nib. The Pen Museum also offers classes in calligraphy.
The jewellery industry developed in Birmingham from the mid-19th Century. The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is an award-winning working museum which offers a guided tour around a real jewelry factory, showing you all the different aspects of jewelry in the 19th Century and also highlighting the work of new designers. There is a tea room, in case you need refreshments, plus a shop from which you can purchase souvenirs, books and jewelry. If English is not your mother tongue, then you can will find guided tours on tape in French, Hindi, Japanese, Spanish and German.
This award-winning museum, restored to its original 18th Century appearance, was the former home of the city's industrial pioneer Matthew Boulton. Soho House was often used as a meeting place for the Lunar Society: a group that counted Josiah Wedgwood (famous pottery maker) and Joseph Priestley (discoverer of oxygen) amongst its members. On display are some of the products of Boulton's nearby Soho Manufactory, including buttons and buckles, as well as silver and Sheffield Plate. The Lunar Society was so called because its members met when there was a full moon. This enabled them to see their way home safely in time before street lamps were in common use.
A little way out from the city center but easy to get to, the Barber Institute is adjacent to the University of Birmingham. This is one of the world's finest small art galleries with an outstanding collection of old and modern paintings, drawings and sculpture. This gallery is not normally as busy as some larger galleries, so your tour will be un-crowded and pleasant. Artists' works include Bellini, Canaletto, Monet, Renoir, Rossetti and Van Gogh. The Institute is also a regular venue for concerts, lectures and other events. Admission is free.