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All Aboard The Art Bus!

By Raghavmodi @raghavmodi
Birmingham has gained quite a reputation as one of the primary cultural cities in the UK. Staying true to this, recently as part of the Museum at Night initiative taking place across the country, a Galleries Night was held by four galleries in the region of Birmingham. What was unique to this event was the availability of The Art Bus which was a free bus service taking visitors from one venue to another. 

All aboard The Art Bus!

The Art Bus

On Friday 13th May, my wife Anubha and I started our journey from the nearby situated Ikon Gallery. The event was taking place from 5pm to 9pm and we decided to catch the first bus to The RBSA keeping the Ikon for the end.

All aboard The Art Bus!


All aboard The Art Bus!
The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) has been active since 1814 nearing almost 200 years of existence. Situated cozily on Brooke Street, it’s a wonderful property. The RBSA at present has close to 200 members with membership recently opened for more artists.

All aboard The Art Bus!

The Programmes at the RBSA

The entrance/first floor houses the information kiosk and an art shop housing various arts ranging from paintings and ceramics to jewelry and pottery. Although the exhibits change from time to time, making repeated trips to the RBSA compulsory, during our visit the First Floor gallery featured beautiful and expensive gold and silver jewelry by Michele White. It was really interesting to see the drawings and inspirations behind the pieces being displayed along with the end products. The Second Floor had a rather interesting exhibit. The EAC Over 60s Art Awards 2011 was art made by amateur artists over the age of 60. 

All aboard The Art Bus!

University of Birmingham Barber Institute of Fine Arts

All aboard The Art Bus!

Art Deco Styled Building of the Barber Institute

Our next stop after a delay of about half hour due to The Art Bus getting stuck in traffic was the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. Situated in a beautiful purpose built art deco building the institute owes its presence to Dame Martha Constance Hettie Barbar and her husband who left the entire Barber fortune to the institute. The art collection, unlike other galleries of the world, was to start afresh with works selected over time by the directors. Since the Barber’s were not fond of 20th century art, initially art only up to 1899 was purchased when the gallery opened in 1932. Over time changes have been made to this and now art older than 30 years can be included in the collection. The paintings are beautifully displayed in the building that also houses an impressive coin collection. We then started with an informative guided tour explaining in detail the art, but had to soon leave in-between as the bus to the next destination arrived.
Since we were running late, we decided to skip the next gallery, The MAC. Situated next to the wonderful Cannon Hill Park we decided to pay a visit another day. Our trip finally ended where it began as we reached Ikon Gallery once again.

All aboard The Art Bus!

The Ikon Gallery oozes contemporary

All aboard The Art Bus!

Exterior of the Ikon Gallery

The Ikon is a free gallery situated close to the city center, off Broad Street which is the main destination for clubs and restaurants. The first exhibit in this impressive building consisted of Tadasn Takamine’s controversial and sometimes bizarre audio-visual art. Titled “Too Far To See” it is something that has to be viewed by each individual as the emotional response to the art is bound to be different for each. Moving on, the next exhibit was Oil on Canvas paintings by acclaimed contemporary artist John Salt. Salt has a special connection with Ikon’s history as he was also the first artist to exhibit his work when the gallery started. We received a guided tour which explained a lot about artist and also little nuances in the art that he made. It was interesting to see how the perspective with which the artist paints mostly old and battered cars has changed over time. Starting with extreme close-ups his viewpoint has changed to where now his paintings feature a wider spectrum. His mode of painting has been of taking photographs and then projecting them on to the canvas and working from there on. Lastly, a rather odd and somewhat useless yet simple exhibit was of a machine built by Kristoffer Myskja titled “Machine that uses a thousand years to shut itself down”. Working on light using solar panels the machine simply does what it says.
All aboard The Art Bus!
The Ikon also has a nifty little shop that has some brilliant art books and what I found to be a rather nice collection of Moleskine journals.

All aboard The Art Bus!

Free Drinks for Everyone at the Ikon

In conclusion, the entire event was a brilliant way to not only introduce first timers and visitors to the word of art, but it provided a way for everyone to experience what the city of Birmingham has to offer. The hosts were extremely informative, courteous, and helpful. There were free drinks and snacks at each and every venue and leaving aside the delay in the bus service (something that was out of the organizers hands) we had an amazing time.
All aboard The Art Bus!

Thank you!   

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