Blooming Marvellous Art & Grub – BMAG & Edwardian Tea Room

Not your typical invite for a foodie event but the team at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG for us locals) wanted to show off their Edwardian Tea Room and a few new galleries as part of their update.

Wifey & I had visited the tea rooms prior as part of Birmingham Cocktail Weekend and we’re big fans of the ‘Birmingham: its people, its history’ exhibit.

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This was BMAG’s first blogger event and we were greeted by Amanda Chan and Hannah Carroll, part of the marketing team. Whilst we waited for those running a little late, I took a snap of probably one of the most famous pieces at BMAG, Lucifer:

Lucifer

Lucifer

The itinerary for the day was to have a good look at a few updated galleries, then on for a spot of afternoon tea.

Group gathered, it was onto the new baroque display spread over galleries 24 and 25. We were informed it was the best collection of 17th Century art outside of London. We also learnt baroque means a rough or imperfect pearl. The focus of the art was to play on drama and emotion, and give a theatrical sense. The art is closely tied with the reformation, meaning lots of religious symbolism.

The gallery had been updated to be more Interactive and engaging. A great little face puzzle drew a lot of attention:

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And so did the kids dressing up box, which Wifey courteously agreed to model:

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Gallery 24 focused on northern Europe with the Netherlands and France a much more sombre tone to the art:

The Dutch works were heavily influenced by the Protestant reformation as churches were not allowed paintings on the walls. Artists diversified into portraits and landscapes. Merchants bought art to show status. The key themes were dark and light, shadow, youth and age and the brevity of life.

The French works were mainly classical landscapes with a key theme of balance; baroque almost moved towards rococo with a focus on light and decorative design.

Gallery 25 focused on Southern Europe with Italy and Spain, where the theatrical nature really stood out. The strong use of colour and expensive materials, such as ultramarine paint and gold, was used on halos; the saints and religious figures were depicted as human and some almost life size.

It was very interesting to see the difference between the southern and northern Europe styles.

The next galleries (12 and 13) along the tour were the newly refurbished Birmingham People and Change in the Inner-City exhibit (different to the one mentioned earlier). The collection centred around Birmingham people and a reflection of the change in the city over the past few decades, with a focus on normal people rather than the celebrities. Highlights included:

  • Late 70’s self portraits of Handsworth, which was to show what Handsworth was about. It was a way to let the people take their own pictures in a  makeshift studio.
  • A 1929 portrait of, Birmingham’s official rat catcher done in a much older style.
  • Colin sculpture ‘In the land of milk and honey’ by Donald Rodney, which referenced the soured experience of migrants.coming to Birmingham.
  • A Phyllis Nicklin gallery projected from a model of the Rotunda
  • A scale model of Spaghetti Junction
  • A model of what Birmingham Broad Street could have been in the inter-war period of which only the Hall of Memory, Baskerville House and the Municipal Bank were completed.

The third and final gallery we visited was Wendy Ramshaw’s Room of Dreams (Gallery 15). On loan from a private collection, it’s inspired by childhood magic and dreams; Wendy used to do her own exhibitions as a child. There were lots of references to fairy tales and children’s stories, in particular Alice in Wonderland. It’s left for the audience to interpret and relate back to their own childhood.

It also ties nicely back to Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter with pieces by Jack Cunningham, former Emeritus Professor, School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University.

After this, it was time to rest our tired feet in the Edwardian Tea Room for afternoon tea and a sit down! The tea rooms are certainly a unique experience with a high vaulted glass ceiling, comfy chairs and a relaxed atmosphere. It was a good chance to chat with the other bloggers, enjoy an Earl Grey with delicious sandwiches and cakes.

I urge those who’ve never been to go to BMAG and enjoy this gem in the heart of the city. Wifey and I learn something new every time we go.

Disclaimer: For this event, we were guests of Birmingham Museum and Art Galleries who provided all food and drink; this provides no bias to the review. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

When: 03/10/2015

Where / Who: Birmingham Museum & Art Galleries, Birmingham

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