BIRMINGHAM Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) has reopened to the public this week, following nearly seven months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Culture lovers, art fans and proud Brummies can return to the magnificent city centre building once more with new and familiar favourites ready to greet them.
Visitors will get to see new displays, including the first chance to see Cold War Steve’s 2-metre-wide Birmingham collage, Benny’s Babbies, in-person. Launched digitally in April, it can now be seen in all its glory framed and displayed in the museum. Showcasing notable Birmingham people, onlookers are encouraged to see who they can spot before using the QR code to discover everyone who features.
Birmingham Museums commissioned Cold War Steve to produce work inspired by the Trust’s digital image database, which hosts thousands of out-of-copyright images from the city’s collection. Benny’s Babbies can be seen alongside Cold War Steve vs The PRB where the artist places characters from the work of Pre-Raphaelite artists, such as Henry Wallis and John Everett Millais, into unlikely scenes.
Also new for the reopening, is a portrait of girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai by Iranian-born artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat which has never been on public display before. On loan from the National Portrait Gallery and commissioned with support from Outset Contemporary Art Fund, the striking image of Malala seated at a school desk is part of the COMING HOME initiative, which sees portraits from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection travel to places across the UK they are closely associated with.
The portrait will be accompanied by two works from Birmingham’s collection on related themes of home and identity by artists connected to the city – In the House of My Father by Donald Rodney and Not Your Fantasy I by Farwa Moledina.
Other new works on display also include Excerpt by Birmingham artist Mixed Milk. In this frenetic film, the artist uses photography of the city’s collection of art and objects and re-sequences them to encourage the viewer to become aware of the intimate connections we all share.
There’s also the chance to revisit old favourites, including a world-renowned collection of Pre-Raphaelite works, art treasures ranging from Renaissance masterpieces to major modern British artworks, and a second chance to see the Dressed to the Nines and Birmingham Revolutions exhibitions.
Timed tickets for entry must be pre-booked at www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag with new opening times of Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm. The museum will be operating with a reduced capacity to accommodate social distancing. Only the Level 2 galleries will be open with a new one-way system in place.
Tickets are free but, if possible, visitors are asked to donate to help Birmingham Museums Trust secure its future during these uncertain times. Tickets are released regularly on a rolling basis up to a month in advance. BMAG branded masks, hand sanitiser and museum guidebook can also be pre-ordered when booking.
Gurminder Kenth, Museum Manager at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, said:
“It feels brilliant to be opening our doors again and welcoming visitors back to the museum once more. This is the ideal time to explore BMAG and to experience new and familiar displays while we are quieter due to reduced capacity.
“With a pre-booked ticket, you’ll have the time and space to browse the galleries at your leisure and escape the news by immersing yourself in art and the peaceful surroundings of the museum. We can’t wait to welcome visitors back!”
The entry also includes access to the Edwardian Tearooms, with the opportunity to dine in or takeaway, and no need to book. Visitors can enjoy a quick pitstop for tea and cake, a hot meal, or choose something to takeaway. The museum’s shop will also be open selling a range of gifts inspired by Birmingham and the city’s collection. Every purchase supports Birmingham Museums Trust as a charity to get through this crisis and time of great financial uncertainty.
BMAG has been awarded the We’re Good To Go official UK mark to signal that government and industry guidelines are being followed. Visitors are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the full list of safety guidelines on the website before arrival at www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag/visit.