Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery partially reopens with exciting new displays and the return of Edwardian Tearooms

28 April 2022

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery’s iconic Round Room has undergone a radical and exciting transformation as part of the landmark building’s partial reopening for the Commonwealth Games and Birmingham 2022 Festival.

The Industrial Gallery has also reopened seven days a week with a series of new displays created by Birmingham Museums Trust curators in partnership with some of the city’s most creative organisations. Elsewhere, the Bridge Gallery is showcasing a selection of gems from the civic collection and inviting feedback on what people want to see from the museum when it reopens fully, and Gallery 10 will showcase historic artworks and new acquisitions giving visitors the chance to step back and reflect on living with through the pandemic

The popular Edwardian Tearooms and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery Shop have also reopened for hot drinks, lunches and unique gifts and collaborations with local makers.

The reopening of five out of the museum’s 40 galleries has taken place while Birmingham City Council’s essential electrical works programme continues safely in other areas of the building. The areas that have reopened will close again in December 2022 to allow maintenance work to continue before the building reopens fully in 2024.

The partial reopening is the first chance to see the journey Birmingham Museums Trust is embarking on to make the museum and the organisation more representative of the people of the city with a new approach to galleries and displays, all driven and co-curated with the people of the city.

Visitors will also be able to enjoy the city’s first major art exhibition since the pandemic when the Gas Hall reopens on Saturday, 14 May, with an Arts Council Collection exhibition curated by Turner Prize-winning and internationally-renowned artist Lubaina Himid CBE. Found Cities, Lost Objects: Women in the City, opens in Birmingham with a selection of local works before touring galleries and museums across the UK.


We Are Birmingham

On display in the Round Room, We Are Birmingham reflects the people of 21st Century Birmingham. Presented by Birmingham 2022 Festival and co-curated by Birmingham Museums and a group of six young People of Colour from Don’t Settle, a project of We Don’t Settle in partnership with Beatfreeks, 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.

Among the Round Room highlights are Bennie’s Babbies by Cold War Steve, The Wall by Anwar Shezma and The Past is Now by Sarah Maple, as well as work by celebrated photographers Vanley Burke and Pogus Caesar.

Meanwhile, the Sir Jacob Epstein sculpture, Lucifer, a recognisable figure at the museum, has been unboxed and is back on display.

In The Que

In the Industrial Gallery a sensory exhibition celebrates one of Birmingham’s greatest music venues – the Que Club.

Curated by Birmingham Music Archive and Pretty Hate Production, In The Que features previously unseen photographs by critically acclaimed photographer Terence Donovan, personal artefacts, archive film footage, flyers and posters and a 35-minute documentary film. Reflecting the experiences of the Que Club – from the ravers to the DJs, musicians to staff – the exhibition encourages visitors and former clubbers to share memories and join in a programme of events.

Wonderland: Birmingham’s Cinema Stories

Presented by Birmingham 2022 Festival, Wonderland: Birmingham’s Cinema Stories by Flatpack Projects explores how cinema has shaped the streets, social lives and dreams of Brummies over the past 125 years.

Flatpack is mapping all 150-plus cinemas in the city – from fairgrounds to multiplexes and from South Asian extravaganzas to pop-ups. The display showcases photographs and cinema memorabilia, alongside Birmingham’s collection of magic lanterns and optical toys.

Blacklash: Racism and the Struggle for Self-Defence, by Kalaboration Arts

From the mid-1980s and over a period of two decades, artist, cultural activist and filmmaker Mukhtar Dar, documented the struggles of Asian and African Caribbean communities against racism. Blacklash: Racism and the Struggle for Self-Defence, by Kalaboration Arts, draws on Mukhtar’s extensive archive of photos, videos and other political ephemera.

SaVĀge K’lubroom

New Zealand/Aotearoa artists Rosanna Raymond and Jaimie Waititi present a SaVĀge K’lubroom in a secretive corner of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (launches on Saturday, April 30). The installation reclaims the gentlemen’s clubs of the same name first established in London in the 19th century. SaVĀge K’lub poses the question: what might it mean to be a savage today?

Bringing together tāonga from SaVĀge K’lub members and Birmingham’s Pacific collection with contemporary art works, installation and spoken word, the Birmingham SaVĀge K’lubroom presents a lush, earthy and playful space to gather and connect in, activated by a series of performances, events and workshops.

SaVĀge K’lub is part of Fierce’s Healing Gardens of Bab which will see a number of locations in Birmingham city centre transformed with unique installations, art and events, presented by Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Collection Stories

The Bridge Gallery plays host to Collection Stories, which showcases the breadth of the city’s collection displaying over 30 gems, including extraordinary works of art, like Souvenir 9 (Queen Victoria) by Hew Locke, which is a recent acquisition to the Birmingham collection, to a pre-Raphaelite masterpiece (Proserpine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti). Along with objects from our everyday lives, which act as a window on the people, events and ideas that have shaped our city, and its connections with the wider world. As part of this display, visitors can feedback on what they want to see from the museum when it reopens fully in 2024

Unprecedented Times

Finally, an additional display in Gallery 10 invites people to take a moment to pause and reflect on all that has passed in Birmingham over the last two years of living with Covid-19.

Unprecedented Times, developed in partnership with Birmingham City Council’s Public Health Division and Birmingham Museums’ Community Action Panel, explores survival of the human spirit in public crises past and present through Birmingham’s collection alongside new work and photography by Birmingham-based artists.

Among the items on display are popular museum painting Boer War, 1900 – 1901 – Last Summer Things Were Greener by Byam Shaw, a pencil drawing by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and an oil painting by Dame Barbara Hepworth (Prelude I).

All creative displays will be supported by a programme of live events including talks, performances and a series of Edwardian Tearooms ‘Lates’ over the course of the year.

Sara Wajid and Zak Mensah, Co-CEOs of Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “Re-opening this Spring feels like a symbolic marker of the end of lockdown and the start of a new phase of cultural confidence for Birmingham. This is a chance to welcome old friends and new visitors from all over the world.

“The new displays such as We Are Birmingham, Blacklash, SaVĀge K’lub honour the contribution of activists, reformers and creative pioneers, while the Unprecedented Times reflections on life through the pandemic helps us make sense of these bewildering times through art. In the Que and Wonderland are joyful, thrilling celebrations of our collective popular culture.

“We thank-you for your patience and support while we repair the building and to all the team and collaborators for bringing us to this moment.”

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Partner quotes

We Are Birmingham

Kiran Samra, Curating Activator for We Are Birmingham, said: “With the build-up to the partial reopening of the museum and the launch of the Commonwealth Games we are really excited for the project to open for public view at such an incredible moment in history.

“It has been a process of reflection, conversation and learning and we are excited to be sharing some incredible stories and artworks with the public.”

In The Que

Jez Collins of Birmingham Music Archive and In The Que, said: “Best known as the home of rave and dance culture, the grade II* Methodist Central Hall was also a brilliant venue for live music. Some of the artists who played at the legendary venue included Blur, PJ Harvey, Massive Attack, Run DMC, Wu-Tang Clan, Chemical Brothers and most incredibly David Bowie who performed on 1st August 1997. 

“Seeing Bowie at such close proximity was an electrifying affair for those lucky enough to be there to see him run through 23 songs. Neill Milton was one of the lucky ones and captured incredible photos, capturing Bowie and his star aura as he stared into the camera. A number of Niell’s photos will be on display for visitors to the exhibition.”

Wonderland: Birmingham’s Cinema Stories

Ian Francis, Director of Flatpack Festival, said: “For Wonderland we were inspired to start a conversation about Birmingham’s rich cinema history. Birmingham’s Odeon story completely changed how cinema was experienced as a grand and opulent form of escape. We are creating a legacy and the exhibition will live on and grow through the website where we are inviting people to share their cinema stories.”

Blacklash: Racism and the Struggle for Self-Defence, by Kalaboration Arts

Mukhtar Dar said: “Blacklash testifies to a period of radical ‘Black’ history that led to many of the statutory rights and opportunities that we have today, it takes courage and conviction for an institution like Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery to open up its doors and display some of the moments and movements from this period its walls.”

SaVĀge K’lubroom

Rosanna Raymond, Head SaVĀge, said: “Working with the Fierce and Birmingham Museums Trust has been a shining light at the end of my global pandemic tunnel. Creating a major artistic project during a time of constant uncertainty is a luxury afforded to the SaVĀge K’lub through this fantastic team’s tenacity and generosity of spirit. They are truly Fierce, and we SaVĀges are genuinely grateful to come to play and heal. This project allows us to share time and space with our cultural treasures, bringing the past into the present, re-centering the indigenous, the queer and the savage body into the heart of the museum.”

Birmingham 2022 Festival

Louisa Davies, Senior Producer, Birmingham 2022 Festival said: “Birmingham 2022 Festival is proud to support these inspiring exhibitions in one of the city’s major institutions. The transformation of these spaces is indicative of a wider desire to challenge perceptions and disrupt what might be considered ‘the norm’, which also aligns with Sara and Zak’s vision for BMAG in the future.”