barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


The city of Birmingham can be seen in a whole new light at an exhibition that has just opened at the Barber.

Visual Communications students at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, Birmingham City University, were challenged to produce photographic responses to their urban environment in the third in an annual series of award exhibitions, this year entitled: FUNCTION III: The Urban Landscape as Photographic Panorama.

A judging panel – which included Robert Gibb, subject leader for photography and moving image at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, and Robert Wenley, the Barber’s Head of Collections and Learning – selected a shortlist of eight stunning images, produced as five-foot wide prints, which went on public display on Friday 7 September.

The images show familiar – and startlingly unfamiliar – sides of Birmingham, and demonstrate a wide variety of technical approaches as well a very different takes on the Birmingham cityscape.

Robert Gibb said he thought the exhibition would certainly challenge visitors’ preconceptions.

‘People will come with baggage about what they expect Birmingham to look like – and find it quite revelatory,’ he said.

While judges have selected an overall winner – top secret at present but to be revealed at a formal opening and prize-giving for the show at the beginning of October – they are keen to see what the Barber’s visitors think. A poll was launched – and gallery-goers have had the chance to vote for their favourite photographic work by visiting the gallery and filling out a polling slip, or by voting on line via the Barber Institute’s Facebook site. Voting closed at 5pm on Monday 1 October.

The exhibition is one of two new shows depicting new and original works of art with Birmingham as a subject matter. Living City – Sarah Silverwood opened in the Barber Institute’s galleries on Friday 31 August. This wonderful small display features drawing montages of Birmingham’s old and new buildings, its construction sites and traffic jams, in a style influenced by everything from 19th-century literature to comic-book takes on the concept of the city.


- Michael Glover, The Independent

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