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Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery to partially reopen in time for Commonwealth Games 2022

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is currently closed as it undergoes substantial electrical work and will partially reopen in April 2022

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) will partially reopen on Thursday 28 April 2022 with some of its spaces reinterpreted by local creatives.

BMAG announced in January (during a five-month lockdown not to be lifted until May) that it would be closed for the duration of 2021 as essential electrical works were carried out across its city centre venue.

The works are part of upgrades to Birmingham City Council House, which adjoins BMAG, which includes an essential electrical works programme and will continue at the museum and art gallery until 2023/4.

36,000 items moved to facilitate electrical works

For the work to take place, more than 36,000 items of Birmingham’s collections have been moved into its storage facilities. The city is hosting the Commonwealth Games from 28 July to 8 August and the reopening ensures that both locals and international visitors will be able to experience the historic galleries.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery first opened in 1885 and is housed in a Grade II* listed city centre landmark building featuring more than 40 galleries that display art, applied art, social history, archaeology and ethnography.

Leading city creatives

From April 28 the Round Room, Industrial Gallery, Edwardian Tearooms, Bridge Gallery, Gallery 10 and the shop will be open. There will also be a special exhibition in the Gas Hall from May 2022.

To mark the reopening, BMAG is being handed over to some of Birmingham’s active creatives.

“We’ve invited some of the city’s leading creatives and arts organisations to animate the Round Room and Industrial Gallery with vibrant new displays that feel much more immediate,” Sara Wajid and Zak Mensah, Co-CEOs of Birmingham Museums Trust said. “We’ll be touching on themes such as popular culture, identity and community and there will be a very warm welcome inviting everyone to join in.”

Animated galleries

The Round Room with Sir Jacob Epstein’s Lucifer (1945) at the centre, will be reimagined by local creatives

The Round Room and Industrial Gallery will be animated by Birmingham Music Archive, Fierce – an international performance festival based in the city, Flatpack Projects – which hosts the city’s annual independent film festival, arts development agency Kalaboration Arts, and Don’t Settle, part of Beatfreeks, which works to unlock the histories of minoritised communities.

These creative organisations have been invited to respond to the theme of ‘This Is Birmingham’ visitors can expect an ‘exquisite collision’ of new exhibitions and live events as well as space to join in and contribute. The Edwardian Tearooms will also be an exciting hub of activity.

Vibrant new displays

“They will bring together a striking combination of stories that bridge popular culture and global struggles the vibrant new displays will share different encounters and experiences, playfully turning the theme of ‘This Is Birmingham’ on its head by asking the question, ‘What’s your Birmingham?’,” said the Co-CEOs. “Visitors will be encouraged to explore and contribute to the many different stories that make Birmingham the fantastic city that it is.”

BMAG’s reopening will be launched with a radical transformation of the Round Room in a display We Are Birmingham to reflect the people of the 21st Century city.

Co-curated by Birmingham Museums and a group of six young people from Don’t Settle, the new display will present a vivid celebration of the city that Birmingham is now as well as aspirations of what the city could become.

A sensory exhibition will also celebrate one of Birmingham’s greatest music venues – the Que Club. Curated by Birmingham Music Archive, In The Que, will feature previously unseen photographs by critically acclaimed photographer Terence Donovan, personal artefacts, archive film footage, flyers and posters.

Birmingham 2022 Festival

The Healing Gardens of Bab, presented by Birmingham 2022 Festival (part of the Commonwealth Games build-up) and produced by Fierce, will be a multidisciplinary programme that uplifts alternative expressions of gender, sexuality and family.

For BMAG Fierce will work with leading Aotearoa/New Zealand based artist Sistar S’pacific, aka Rosanna Raymond who will create a unique installation in collaboration with LGBTQIA+ communities in Birmingham.

Wonderland by Flatpack Projects and presented by Birmingham 2022 Festival will explore how cinema has shaped the streets, social lives and dreams of Brummies over the past 125 years.

Blacklash: Racism and the Struggle for Self-Defence, by Kalaboration Arts, draws on two decades of experience from artist, cultural activist and filmmaker Mukhtar Dar, who has documented the struggles of Asian and African Caribbean communities against racism.

COVID-19 exhibition

An additional exhibition will invite visitors to take a moment to pause and reflect on all that has passed in Birmingham over the past two years living with COVID-19.

Unprecedented Times, developed in partnership with Birmingham City Council’s Public Health Division and Birmingham Museums’ Community Action Panel, will explore survival of the human spirit in public crises past and present.

The display will explore themes of hope and loss featuring historic objects from Birmingham’s collection alongside new work and photograph by Birmingham based artists.

Virtual tour

All other galleries can still be explored online via the BMAG virtual tour and Birmingham’s collections can be further explored at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum.

From April 2022 BMAG will open seven days a week, from 10am–5pm.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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