Birmingham’s artsy bits…
Our walking tours of the city look at the public artworks all around us. These pages brings together information and links to artists that have impacted on our city streets, and who enliven us, but who we often take for granted. This is an evolving resource, linked to a new coffee table book on Birmingham’s public art which Jonathan Berg is currently researching. Do come back and see how it grows.
Bull (Laurence Broderick, 2003) A high profile and much loved art piece in Birmingham and rated one of the top 10 pieces of public art in the world today. Laurence is still practising, with an annual event at his studio on the Cambridgeshire-Bedfordshire border. While perhaps best known for the Bull, Laurence has worked on figurative pieces of Otters and other animals and human forms. He uses a variety of materials including bronze and stone. Laurence Broderick website here…..
Industry and Genius (David Patten, 1990) A representation of the Baskerville type-punches, spelling out the title of his first book printed on presses on this site and published in 1757. One of few public artworks that have lasted from the 1990s redevelopment of Centenary Square. David has more recently added his artful origination to Golden Square in the Jewellery Quarter. Video clip looking at 1990s Centenary Square art…. David Patten website
(William Mitchell, 1965 & 1968) William Mitchell added his concrete art to so much brutalist architecture. We are so lucky to have pieces in Birmingham that we need to both protect and enjoy. Around the first level of Quayside Tower on Broad Street are 19 concrete installations (1965) all in good condition, although some are not helped by current commercial premises paying scant regard to them. Under the A41 Hockley Flyover is a major work entitled Climbing Wall. This would have been poured in situ with the artistic moulds between the wooden shuttering and the concrete laying area. These are three giant works under the flyover in great condition and well worth a view. See video clip here…… William Mitchell 20 April 1925 - 30 January 2020
Bullring Glass Artwork (Martin Donlin, 2003) A substantial artwork from this Essex-born artist. Martin trained in the art of stained glass at Swansea (1984-87). His work is seen in the UK and around the world, sometimes on a very large scale. Martin Donlin website here….
Thomas Attwood (Sioban Coppinger & Fiona Peever, 1993) The Birmingham banker and political reformer found reclining adjacent to the Town Hall, where he used to hold rallies. Short video here…… Website: Sioban Coppinger….. Website: Fiona Peever…..
Iron Man Missing, but not forgotten, is Antony Gormley’s famous Iron Man. Taken away on the back of a lorry when the Midland Metro line came through Victoria Square. Said to be coming back imminently since 2018, but clearly behind the scenes different organisations can’t get their act together. Hugely missed and demonstrates how little Birmingham understands the role and potential of public art to contribute to the life of the city. Antony Gormley website here….
gone missing! Climbing Wall
Black Sabbath Seat (Tarek Abdelkawi, 2019) Located on the bridge over the Birmingham Main Line Canal on Broad Street close to the Hyatt Hotel. A celebration to the Birmingham band who helped create the 1960s rock seen in Birmingham and then around the world. The artwork was created by Egyptian artist Tarek Abdelkawi. The Jewellery Quarter’s Etch Components added the band’s portraits and signatures and final manufacture was by Gateway Steel Fabricators of Tyseley. The bench has some issues with rust show through which hopefully will be sorted as this is a piece that creates a lot of interest. More about The Art Society Wrekin here…..
Members of The Art Society Wrekin trying out the Black Sabbath seat, while touring Birmingham’s arty bits with our very own Jonathan Berg
(William Bloye, 1956) The Boulton, Watt and Murdoch statue is a great way of telling the story of Birmingham’s major part in the Industrial Revolution. Until now depicted as a non-controversial piece of public art…but not any more. Our re-interpretation of the role of Birmingham in the slave trade after the Black Lives Matters campaign confronts us with the not so good aspects of the work of Boulton and Watt. Will the statue return? We understand it will along with a suitable interpretation. At present we talk to the empty plinth and that works quite well! With the estimated £12k of cut marble lying all around it and a right old mess in front of the new Symphony Hall extension surely someone will make a decision soon! Read more on our blog here….
A Real Birmingham Family (Gillian Wearing, 2014) Birmingham-born Turner Prize winner’s depiction of Sisters Roma and Emma Jones with sons Kyan and Shaye. Wearing says the bronze points out “what constitutes a family should not be fixed”. Deemed controversial by some, without a father figure, but to others shows the reality of single parent family life in Birmingham. A much photographed piece of public art, especially with visitors. Gillian Wearing - more here…
The Lovely People (Arron Bird, aka: Temper, 2010) The Cube includes art installations by the Wolverhampton born artist Temper. Lovely People are found all around you when you enter The Cube from the canal side. In 2001 Coca-Cola commissioned Temper to create imagery for a limited edition Sprite can. In the same year his Minuteman exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery broke all attendance records with 38,000 visitors over four weeks. Temper: find out more here….
ICC Suspended Stained Glass (Alexander Beleschenko, 1991) Abstract piece above the canal side entrance to the International Convention Centre, containing 50,000 pieces of glass held together with stainless steel. One of Alexander’s early large-scale works, with the colours inspired by nature giving a feel of movement on a sunny day. Alexander was born in Corby to Ukrainian parents and studied art at the Slade School of Fine Art. After time in Norwich and Florence he studied and taught stained glass at Swansea where he opened his studio in 1986. Martin Donlin cites him as influential on his own career. Speaking of his work and career in 2017, Alexander said: ”Yes, I do consider myself a stained glass artist, even though I have only made a few stained glass windows in my 35-year career”……”The other term associated with what I do is Public Art and that one I don’t really care for much. It is a strange one because I don’t see the end result of my artistic efforts as being specifically for the public. I see it as primarily being embedded into architecture. I want my art to be transformative and relevant to its architectural context.” Full article here…
Stephen and Stitt (Originally by WW Wagstaff, 1935 for Hong Kong branch) The HSBC bronze guardians are named after two HSBC 1920s managers at the Shanghai branch, Alexander Gordon-Stephen, roaring, and Gordon Holmes-Stitt. The lions are exact replicas of the original castings outside the Hong Kong HSBC which were designed by the English artist WW Wagstaff who was based in Shanghai. Eight lucky coins are buried in their base, as tradition dictates the number 8 is symbolic of good fortune in Chinese tradition.
Battle of the Gods & Giants, ICC canalside (Roderick Tye, 1992) This piece has a smooth exterior with a contrasting rough interior. Coventry born artist Tye said the piece should be ‘free of any particular modern emblematic context.” Roderick died in 2009 at just 51 years old. He was an inspirational teacher and his work was highly regarded. He had a second career as a fishing writer and fly-tier. See his Guardian obituary here…..
Saturday mornings - a walk!
Piccadilly Arcade A year in the life of the Chinchillas (Paul Maxfield, 1989) These trompe l’oeil (‘to deceive the eye’) paintings are seen in six panels as you walk through the arcade. Originally a black and white picture house which opened in 2010, it was converted to shops in 1926 and many original features remain today. The paintings show the fours seasons and different events with people looking down at you as you try and take it all in. Where is Paul Maxfield today - possibly Head of Art for a public school?
Convention, ICC Atrium (Richard Perry, 1992) A lime wood relief on the Symphony Hall side of the ICC mall. This is an early work for an artist who has gone on to produce public realm public sculptures around the United Kingdom and further afield. Richard Perry: website here….
Pub bombings memorial (Anuhadra Patel, 2019) Born in Gujarat, Anu came to UK via Uganda and studied fine art at Lanchester Poly in Coventry. Anu has been involved with public realm art with Centro and major city centre works at St Thomas Peace Garden and the 24 hour walkway to Moor Street Station (see bleow). She has often used paper cutting techniques which are transferred to metalwork with high tech laser cutting. Three 15 foot trees are of corten and stainless steel. The leaves name all 21 who died and their age. Anu moved to Melbourne in 2006. Website: here….
24 hour Walkway to Moor Street (Anuhadra Patel, 2003) Incorporating artistic elements in the city street scene can be so innovative. This walkway becomes a pleasure if we care to stop and take some notice in our busy lives. Anu has moved to Melbourne, Australia, where she continues to practice. See here…..
The not so Golden Boys
Forward Together (Luke Perry, 4th July 2021] A 13 m long reinterpretation of the city’s Forward crest with 25 steel silhouettes of Birmingham people - most of who came to the opening event. This temporary installation was made in Luke’s Black Country studio in Cradley Heath and has been commissioned for a Sky television series. The piece includes quotes from Benjamin Zephania’s poem ‘We refugees’ including “we all came here from somewhere”. Luke trained at Birmingham School of Art and has concentrated on major public art installations. His pieces look at aspects of the Industrial Revolution and also under-represented people. Luke’s not for profit company Industrial Heritage Stronghold has a great website where you can learn lots more about his work here:
People depicted in Forward Together, along with Luke (top right) and others who helped make it happen
Birmingham’s Public Art NEW book details here…