A £1m stepping stone

An interesting development in the plans for a new gallery of contemporary art for Birmingham reported here way back in January. A consortium composed of the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Ikon Gallery and Walsall’s New Art Gallery have won £1 million “to spend jointly on contemporary international art over the next five years” reports Terry Grimley in the Post

The collaboration is being seen as a stepping stone to the creation of a new museum of contemporary art for Birmingham. A feasibility study into the museum, first proposed by Ikon Gallery last year, is about to begin.

The former Municipal Bank building on Broad Street has been suggested as one possible location.


Each consortium was asked to identify a theme for its proposed collection, with the West Midlands selecting “The Metropolis – reflections of modern urban life”.

You’ll remember.. actually, you probably won’t as this blog didn’t have many readers back then, but the Big Idea behind having a new contemporary art gallery was that it would act as a “cathedral”, providing an umbrella for further cultural and artists development. As Ikon director Jonathan Watkins said in the original article:

“The more institutions you have, the more artistic activity you can attract, the more artists decide to stay. Then an art market might start to happen. Commercial galleries might decide Birmingham is a good place to be.”

Hmm. Reminds me of a chat I had with Matt Price about developing a community of art critics in the city.

Photo of the Municipal Bank cropped from this old postcard as no-one seems to have taken a decent photo of it recently.


  1. AGAIN

    In my opinion Curzon Street is to far away from anything. To be realistic the major funded art institutions need to be close to each other. For two reason, In Vouge with the Pre Raphaelite Idea of keeping cultural buildings close. IE Margaret street school of art, Muesum and art gallery and the Central Library.
    Furthermore a big percentage of art vistors would come off the street and the Municipal Bank is prime location.

    Having this in place would create more artists coming/staying in Birmingham. Therefore more artist-run spaces would hopefully be creative in other less affluent areas in Birmingham.Such as the Digbeth,However the regeneration of Digbeth may send the costs of such projects un-achievable.However there are still places in the City these artist run spaces could work.

  2. I’d also add that Curzon St Station isn’t actually that big inside. Thanks to the columns it looks huge but it doesn’t go that far back and is mainly a staircase.

    And I personally like the idea of it being a photography gallery – it’s about the right size for that. More info here.

  3. Boy Wonder

    I agree with Pete. Curzon Street station should be a photographic gallery and home to the world class Birmingham photo archive; it is frankly a travesty that this is hidden away in basements and boxes. This should be the priority, lets build on what we have, our local distinctiveness, not solely on what we aspire to have. In fact I’m not convinced that we do need a contemporary art museum just because it is expected of us to have one. Our region has some very important galleries showing contemporary work with significant collections old and new. Walsall, Wolverhampton, Leamington, BMAG and the fantastic Compton Verney, add to this nationally significant collections of ceramics in Stoke and Glass in Dudley. Mr Watkins should perhaps look to increase the attendances at his own gallery before launching on expansion plans. Frankly the Ikons 117,000 attendances (6 of which over a year will be me) is pretty poor for a gallery in the UK’s second city when you consider New Art Gallery Walsall gets over 200,000 and Compton Verney gets 110,000 most paying £7. (Figures taken from some research, general enquiries and reliable sources)

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