As John Lennon once said, “Life doesn’t imitate art…it is art!” and this past two years life has been pretty tough, with a traumatising pandemic, a horrific war raging in Ukraine, and now the energy and cost of living crisis all creating a tonne of anxiety.
The importance of taking time out for leisure activities to maintain one’s sanity should not be underestimated, and there is nothing better than a wander around an art gallery, to lose yourself and perhaps, take some inspiration for the odd purchase to liven up your living room!
Here at Grapevine, we have come up with, the best art galleries in Birmingham right now, that are free to mooch around and de-stress in, whilst dreaming of other worlds.
The RBSA runs an exhibition venue, the RBSA Gallery, in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter, a short walk from the city centre. The RBSA Gallery Shop features contemporary craft by designer-makers based in the Midlands and beyond. The gallery houses a permanent Collection of over 950 works of art which include paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, ceramics and jewellery. The Collection comprises objects significant to the history of the RBSA and to Birmingham’s wider artistic heritage. Most works in the Collection have been produced by past Members and Associates of the Society. Notable artists represented are David Cox, Aubrey Beardsley, Joseph Southall, William Gear and Bernard Fleetwood-Walker. There is an ongoing acquisitions programme and the Collection continues to grow each year. Recent acquisitions include works by William Bloye, RBSA (1890 – 1975), sculptor and designer, and Sir Frank Brangwyn RA, RWS, RBA (1867 – 1956). The RBSA’s Archive includes the Society’s original exhibition catalogues and minute books dating back to the 1820s, as well as a collection of letters written by former Members and exhibitors at the Society. These include letters written by some of the Society’s most prestigious contacts such as Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Sir John Everett Millais and John Brett. Other resources include curatorial files, photograph albums from the nineteenth century, and several books of press cuttings.
4 Brook Street, St. Paul’s Square, Birmingham, B3 1SA
Barber Institute of Fine Arts
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is housed in one of Birmingham’s finest Art Deco buildings, purpose built and opened by Queen Mary in 1939. The Barber Institute was designed by Robert Atkinson (1883-1952), one of Britain’s leading architects of the 1920s and ’30s. In 1946 the building received a bronze medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects and in 1981 was listed Grade II by the Department of the Environment – updated to a Grade 1 listing by Historic England in 2020. From Botticelli and Bellini through Gainsborough, Gauguin and Van Gogh, to Manet, Magritte and Frank Auerbach, the Barber’s stunning collection of paintings spans seven centuries through four galleries. Some of the highlights of this wide-ranging collection include drawings by Dürer, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Ingres and Turner. Among recent acquisitions are prints by Goya and Käthe Kollwitz and drawings by contemporary artist Tess Jaray. The Barber has a small but varied collection of sculpture by European artists such as Roubiliac, Rodin, Degas and Naum Gabo. It covers most media – from marble and wax to terracotta and bronze – and techniques, and ranges from a tiny ivory carving to a life-size equestrian monument. There are also a few select pieces from West Africa, Egypt, China, Thailand and Iran.
University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TS
Midlands Art Centre
First opened in 1962, Midlands Arts Centre – also known as MAC – is a pioneering arts complex for everyone. MAC is a contemporary arts centre and charity, set in the magnificent surroundings of Cannon Hill Park, just two miles south of the city centre. MAC provides arts for all, for every age and background, with the mission to make art an important part of people’s lives. Specialising in contemporary work, the centre offers a busy programme of theatre, independent cinema, visual arts exhibitions, and special events, as well as a wealth of practical classes in all aspects of creativity. Beyond the touring and self-produced programme, MAC works extensively to support emerging and mid-career artists. MAC is a national leader in developing work with children, families and young people of all backgrounds, and receives funding from a number of supporters and trusts.
Midlands Arts Centre, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, B12 9QH
Seventh Circle – Artworks & Aesthetics
Seventh Circle – Artworks & Aesthetics are an Art Gallery and Picture Framers offering a complete package which includes Art Installation. Located on St. Mary’s Row, in the heart of Moseley Village, Seventh Circle are honoured to be able to contribute to the diverse artistic and cultural heritage that is so ingrained and celebrated, locally in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands. This beautiful and welcoming space offers a range of contemporary works, in all sizes and price-points, from huge, original abstracts, to street art, fashion and cultural icon portraits and everything in-between. There is also an ever-growing range of prints that are priced to walk away with.
10 St Mary’s Row, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8JG, UK
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is housed in a stunning Grade II* listed landmark building that has watched over the city’s Chamberlain and Victoria Squares since 1885, welcoming millions of visitors each year. While the continuing maintenance works programme means it has now closed again, plans to fully reopen in 2024 are in full swing. By then, visitors will be able to enjoy its impressive collections once again, including its unrivalled Pre-Raphaelite collection, which features more than 2,000 awe-inspiring pieces, from oil paintings and tapestries to stained glass and ceramics by the likes of Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Chamberlain Sq, Birmingham B3 3DH
Colley Ison Art Gallery
Once known as Reuben Colley Fine Art, Colley Ison is an independent gallery set in the heart of Birmingham. The team proudly represent a carefully curated selection of local and world renowned artists. So, whether you’re a collector, investor, or lover of art – Colley Ison Gallery is a fab place to indulge. Reuben Colley Fine Art was founded by award-winning artist Reuben Colley in 2010. Having traded in Moseley for five years, the gallery moved in 2015 to a prestigious location on Colmore Row, in one of Birmingham’s fine Victorian buildings.
85-89, Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 2BB
Digbeth and Deritend is home to some incredible street art, poster art, sticker art and graffiti art. From large scale commisioned murals around the Custard Factory to spray can art along the many olf factories and hoardings. Local grffiti art legends have used Digbeth as a canvas to hone their skills. The Hi-Vis festival takes place each year and is a brilliant opportunity to see some of the finest graffiti artists from around the UK, they leave behind their legacy each year creating a permanent free display which hide around every street corner.
Eastside Projects is an artist-run multiverse based in a free public gallery in Digbeth. Eastside Projects as a process, as a place where multiple narratives and experiences coexist, where they make visible an evolving set of possible realities. Eastside Projects commission artists, make art, think-in-public, curate exhibitions, programme events, work alongside communities, build relationships, create production facilities, support artists, produce public art projects, generate and apply research, develop talent, train artist-curators, and imagine new realities. Opened in 2007, Eastside Projects has been an artist-run space, a Not for Profit Company, and an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, in partnership with Birmingham City University.
Eastside Projects, 86 Heath Mill Lane, Digbeth, B9 4AR
Vivid Projects is a non-profit company supporting media arts practice. Founded in 2012 and based in Birmingham, Vivid encourage innovation, risk and experimentation in artistic practice. They are committed to a diversity of practice and encourage historic and contemporary engagement with cultural and sub-cultural histories. This work is made public through an ambitious programme of events and exhibitions on and off-site, created in collaboration with artists, producers, thinkers and researchers. The programme provides access, mentoring and a public platform, driven by sharing culture and collaboration. Alongside this runs Vivid Live, a platform for new producers supporting specialist live practices with artists who make work that resonates with issues that are at the forefront in the current social/political landscape.
Vivid Projects, 16 Minerva Works, 158 Fazeley Street, Birmingham B5 5RS
Castle Fine Art galleries (ICC & The Mailbox)
Castle Fine Art are at the heart of the contemporary movement, having united collectors with artworks by exciting modern artists since 1995. With an ever-expanding portfolio of limited edition prints, original artworks and sculptures, Castle work with some of the biggest names in art – including Ronnie Wood, Marvel and Bob Dylan as well as homegrown talent, nurturing the careers of the artists they discover. Castle galleries are free to wander around and hold regular events.
Level 2, The Mailbox, 5 Wharfside St, Birmingham B1 1RD
The International Convention Centre, Broad St, Birmingham B1 2EA
Lux Gallery is an independent fine art gallery and photography studio located in the heart of Edgbaston Village. The gallery represents exclusive local, British and international artists who create wall art, sculpture, ceramics, glass and jewellery. Their local talent includes Prince’s Trust ambassador Alexander Rhys, Royal Academy exhibitor Dan Holden, and rising star Robbie Jeffcott, plus a selection of jewellery from Jewellery Quarter jewellers. Lux Gallery runs evening art events, special exhibitions and talks, and photography courses. Artworks range from £50 to £10,000. Finance is available through the Own Art Scheme. Behind the gallery is a photographic studio that is used for a wide range of photographic needs, classes or as an additional gallery space.
13 Greenfield Crescent, Edgbaston Village, B15 3AU
The Ikon Gallery is an English gallery of contemporary art, located in Brindleyplace, Birmingham. It is housed in the Grade II listed, neo-gothic former Oozells Street Board School, designed by John Henry Chamberlain in 1877. Ikon was set up to encourage the public to engage in contemporary art. As a result, the gallery delivers an off-site Education and Interpretation scheme to educate audiences, and to promote artists and their work. Featured artworks include all forms of media including sound, sculpture and photography as well as paintings. Exhibitions rotate throughout the year so that as many pieces can be displayed as possible. Ikon is a registered charity which is partly funded by Birmingham City Council and Arts Council of England.
1 Oozells St., Birmingham B1 2HS
Stryx is an female artist led residency, studios and exhibition space in Digbeth, Birmingham. Founded in 2012, Stryx focuses on supporting artists through residencies and artist development programmes. They invite the public to experience the process of art making and exhibition production creating an open platform for learning and growth. Stryx seeks to initiate and develop regional and national artistic collaborations in order to promote and strengthen an accessible and vibrant network of ideas and practices.
Unit 13, Minerva Works, Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, B5 5RS
Grand Union is a gallery and artists’ studios complex in Digbeth, Birmingham. It is a welcoming organisation, bringing the public closer to art and artists. It hosts a free programme of public exhibitions and events, with many opportunities for discussion and the sharing of ideas. Grand Union supports learning, creating numerous contexts for art and life to intersect. Its work places an emphasis on the importance of collaboration and artistic research. Many of these projects take place outside of the gallery, across the city. Grand Union provides high quality, affordable studios for visual artists in the heart of a supportive creative community, with frequent opportunities for members of the public to visit behind the scenes.
Minerva Works, 158 Fazeley St, Birmingham B5 5RS
Artefact is an artist-led, community-focused arts space, in Stirchley, South Birmingham. Their main aims are to support artistic development and to engage the public with a programme of free exhibitions, workshops, gigs, performance events and talks. To engage the public with an arts programme they combine the exhibition space with community organised events and social gatherings, such as pub quizzes, gig nights and films screenings.
1464 Pershore Rd, Stirchley, Birmingham, United Kingdom
BHP Collectibles Ltd has established itself to be a distributor of quality contemporary art alongside film and music memorabilia. From signed movie posters to rare lobby cards, or even your favourite Disney movie posters. The entertainment memorabilia features items such as a signed Star Wars posters, a very rare Deer Hunter British One Sheet film poster and an enormous selection of classic horror movie posters! The gallery is free to wander around.
28 St Paul’s Square, Birmingham, B3 1RB