The Public


The website for Public Gallery, to be housed within West Brom’s The Public building, has gone online signaling the first sign of life for this long troubled project. The building will finally open this summer and, thanks as ever to D’log’s pointers, I’ve been looking into what’s going to happen there.

The best resource currently seems to be this article on BD, an architects website, which details the history of the construction but, more interestingly, shows some diagrams of what’s inside that big box. Here’s a good one (click for bigger).


The large black bit at the front is “The Sock” and at the back the white area is the events space.

In that BD interview the architect explains what visitors will see:

The main attraction is the gallery. The majority of it will be a permanent exhibition with a series of international artists commissioned to produce completely bespoke works. There are then two temporary exhibition spaces which are within The Sock.

The idea behind a lot of the permanent artworks is that people will take an identity around with them using radio frequency identification tags which they will hang around their necks, so the exhibits will recognise people and they will react to people and what they do at each exhibit.

At the end of the gallery experience, there will be an area called “Make” where people can create things to take away based on their visit. That might be a DVD, CD-rom, a t-shirt or mug.

The other main public function is the events space which is on the ground floor at the opposite end of the building to The Sock. It’s a multi-function space for meetings, conferences, seminars, rock gigs and concerts, but it doesn’t work as a theatre because the fly tower cannot take significant structural loads. The brief for it wasn’t very clear when we inherited it, so we’ve concentrated on the uses that will work.

The green bit in the middle is “The Cave”, details of which are sketchy but it will contain “an interactive projection artwork” which implies it’ll be a permanent feature, along the lines of the “bespoke” works by international artists.

Obviously the whole project has been embroiled in controversy from its conception to its going drastically over budget – most of the articles from 2006 I found seem to gleefully dwell on it’s failure before it was even completed (What looks like a magenta fish, cost £52m and closed before it opened? – Guardian, Cash crisis halts arts project – Post/Mail) and while I wouldn’t want to gloss over these issues the building is going to open and will have a significant presence on the West Midlands’ art scene regardless of how it lives up to it’s initial intentions. Above all it looks to be pretty insane, and I like that.

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