This dramatically varied, insightful and warming exhibition opened on Saturday with spoken word performances and a fully engaged debate with four women MPs. Inspired by the bold work of feminist artists and activists, Women Power Protest raises awareness, provokes debate and asks how much has changed for women. The show was very well attended by a diverse audience throughout Saturday with visitors enjoying the thought provoking work on every wall of the Gas Hall.
It is curated to mark a century since the first women won the right to vote, the exhibition brings together modern and contemporary artworks from the Arts Council and Birmingham’s Collection to celebrate female artists who have explored protest, social commentary and identity in their work.
It showcases pieces by celebrated artists including Susan Hiller, Lubaina Himid, and Mary Kelly, as well as sometimes controversial artists such as Sam Taylor-Johnson, Sonia Boyce, and Margaret Harrison, the exhibition does not shy away from difficult subjects, nor underplay the genius behind these artworks.
In November 1918 The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Actpassed allowing women to stand for Parliament. 100 years on to commemorate this landmark event in history, Birmingham Museum is delighted to host a panel discussion with four female MP’s from Birmingham and Solihull, chaired by leading feminist campaigner Caroline Criado Perez.
Participating politicians: Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley Preet Gill, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston Shabana Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood Dame Caroline Spelman, MP for the Meriden constituency (Solihull).
The debate explored what it means to be a woman in parliament today and what the future looks like for women in politics. Caroline led the panel in rich and informed discussion based on the MP’s extensive experience and knowledge of the parliamentary system. Dame Caroline Spelman was able to compare the changes in women’s engagement in parliament over her 20 year contribution in the house. Legislative changes and custom and practice were welcomed, but there is still much to do. The continuing social media abuse faced by female Mps and the need for social media platform companies to prevent or remove abuse was called for. The chair encouraged questions of no more than ten words from the floor from women, and one man. There was more valuable exchanges and debate than for much of the debate earlier in the week in Westminster.
The show is free and on until 31 Mar 2019. Go See.
Women Power Protest is part of the Arts Council Collection National Partnership Programme which sees four major UK galleries working together to curate, host, and share a series of exciting and innovative new exhibitions with works drawn from the Arts Council Collection. The National Partner venues are Birmingham Museums Trust, Walker Art Gallery National Museums Liverpool, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Towner Gallery, Eastbourne.
Museum of the Moon is a new touring artwork by UK artist Luke Jerram.
Measuring seven metres in diameter, the moon features 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface. At an approximate scale of 1:500,000, each centimetre of the internally lit spherical sculpture represents 5km of the moon’s surface.
Moon Story, Drawing and social media.
The original drawing was begun when the artist visited the Museum of the Moon exhibition and spotted a ‘moonlight’ in the corner in the dark expanse housing Luke Jerram’s massive moon. On a closer view the moonlight was a table lamp beamed on a book being read by Steve to an entranced family. The illuminated reader and family provided a strong composition to base a drawing on. The artist took iPhone pictures, transferred them to an iPad, into adobe procreate and using an apple pencil the drawing was created through a number of states. An early version was posted. on Instagram channel where Museum Manager Jessica spotted it, showed it to Steve who was surprised and impressed. Jess used Instagram to contact the Artist to let him know Steve would like a copy if possible.
Once the drawing was finished proofs were made on a high quality Cannon inkjet printer on to a range of papers before an edition of 5 were printed on 300 gsm aquarelle off white paper. Two months on from the Saturday encounter in the Museum of the Moon the 2nd print of the edition was presented to Steve who along with Jessica enjoyed seeing the mounted fine print. Of course it quickly appeared on the @thinktankmuseum feed.
May 10 th arrives and the 30 Printed Portraits will be revealed to all and those who feature on the walls of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
In the morning I was attending to final details including briefing the wonderful front of house team and remaking the nameplates with larger type and a Shrieval coat of arms. A gentleman came into the space and after a while focussing on the pictures I asked what he thought. He had seen the exhibition advertised on the BMAG Whats on listings and had travelled in especially from Telford in Shropshire to see it.
We talked about the how he is semi retired and visits galleries near and far to get a sense of artists work close up. We discussed portraits, photography, art before taking a picture of each other. He asked if he could take my picture in front of the Portrait of Eileen Wright as it is his favourite because of the ‘glint in her eye at her age’, as well as the big buttons on the phone she used to take he 97th birthday call.
Mike had been to the TATE in Liverpool to see the Rossetti Monna Vanna portrait and had taken a celebratory picture. I pointed out that next door in Gallery 17 is a beautiful picture by Rossetti of Beatrix. He thanked me and went to see it, quickly returning with glee and after one last tour of the portraits made his comment in the book.
As the normal viewing day came to a close a group of women came into Gallery 16. They viewed the portraits with interest and consideration, sharing their views to each other about the portraits and the subjects. They enthusiastically reflected, and nominated their top three! Top of their favourites was Eileen Wright.
I heard later that evening at the private view that as they left the Museum they met Eileen’s daughter and husband on the gallery entrance doorsteps and eulogised about the portrait exhibition and in particular the one of the older lady making her birthday phone call. Wonderful
There are many clever, precise skills and crafts required to hang a 30 frame exhibition. Especially as I wanted a very aligned approach. Getting the balance right between the 3 different sizes of frames to provide an equality of status for each portrait, while a unity across the 4 walls was a priority that Dr Rob achieved to perfection with his attention to detail at every stage. Rob also suggested not using the traditional ‘mirror clips’ to hang the show, but to use security picture fixings. These have the benefit of being hidden from the view as the frames ‘magically’ hang on the wall. In addition the spring locks are secure and prevent the frames being removed with out the ‘special lever. Lawrence at the Framers was able to supply.
Click on the gallery below to see pictures of the process.
Dr Rob Top tip : If the walls are not necessarily flat – you end up with rocking pictures. This can be remedied with a slice of cork behind the frame, but it can become uneven to look at on the oblique view which matters if the galleries are big.
The High Sheriff Printed Portraits were framed by Lawrence at The Framers in the Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham. ‘The Hangman’ Dr Rob Grose and I collected the frames to transport to the hallowed and impressive galleries in the city’s municipal Gallery in the city Centre. Lawrence assisted with the 3 Large A0 frames. It was a cold and damp start, but we were let through the historic, heavy metal gates and up in the slow, but sure lift to the 2nd floor gallery level.
Gallery 16 was pristine after the recent redecoration, but a tad daunting in its emptiness. While we got underway the galleries seen through our closed glass doors were bustling with visitors and groups of eager school children travelling in from their city schools to see the collections and be inspired to write and draw. The Front of House staff and volunteers are very experienced, knowledgable and open to engage with all visitors. In fact our first visitor pre public viewings were invigilators eager to see the new exhibition and to understand more in order to respond to visitor’s questions.
Gallery 16 has brass plates on each door designating it the PRINT ROOM.
Originally this was a dedicated and curated print room, but it is now utilised for a range of exhibitions. It seems vey appropriate to be exhibiting the High Sheriff Printed Portraits here.
Click ‘Installation’ gallery to see how we embarked on the hang.
Hanging the exhibition was a revelation. Individual prints began to ‘connect’ with each other and we began to see ‘themes’ that had not been apparent until this moment. Some subjects looked one way, while others looked elsewhere. Hands began to follow each other, and subject’s emotions became clearer and clearer and the exhibition began to reveal itself. Each portrait and its subject is important in itself, but gathered together they become a body of work that reflects on the breadth of people I met in the West Midlands in 2015/16.