Get us in your inbox

Search
Grand Union
Photograph: Harry Meadley

The 10 best art galleries in Birmingham

After your culture fix? From huge museums to under-the-radar gems, these are the best art galleries in Birmingham

https://d32dbz94xv1iru.cloudfront.net/customer_photos/4e4a523a-5529-4a58-a105-e89b2f56ace3.jpg
Written by
Huw Oliver
Advertising

This city’s creative institutions can rival pretty much any in the UK, with elegant displays of fine and classical art alongside a seriously vibrant contemporary scene. But the best thing? Some of the absolute best galleries in Birmingham are housed in buildings beautiful enough to be attractions themselves. So whether you’re making a beeline for storied beasts like the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, or seeking nicher spots like Grand Union, you can rest assured that your artistic sensibilities will be well rewarded. Plus, don’t forget that our museums have some beautiful pieces, too.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Birmingham

Best art galleries in Birmingham

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
  • Museums

Get your walking shoes on if you’re planning a visit to the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, because this exceptional cultural space offers a wealth of exhibits to explore. Visitors can peruse one of the largest pre-Raphaelite collections in the world, delve into the treasures found in the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found or head up to the third level for a detailed, hands-on history of Birmingham and its people.

Ikon Gallery
  • Art
  • Galleries

Ikon, the beating heart of contemporary art in Birmingham, spent the early days of its 55-year existence hopping all over the city. Since 1997, however, it has been settled into its permanent home in a striking neo-gothic building in Brindleyplace. Set up by a group of creatives from the Birmingham School of Art, Ikon’s programmes mix the local with the international. The food isn’t bad, either – the in-house café offers British classics at reasonable prices.

Advertising
RBSA
  • Art

A whole lotta history runs through the veins of the RBSA Gallery. The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists was set up in the 1820s, receiving its royal charter in 1868 from Queen Victoria. It’s had a number of famous presidents, including William Morris and John Everett Millais, while Prince Charles is an honorary member. It moved from its opulent New Street premises to settle in Brook Street in 2000, and, while the modern building might not be as beautiful as its former digs, the gallery has a programme of dazzling exhibitions that make up for it.

The Barber Institute Of Fine Arts
  • Art

You might not expect one of the country’s finest collections of art to be found within a rather unassuming building on a university campus, but that speaks to the very nature of Birmingham – a city that has great things, but rarely shouts about them. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts boasts an astonishing collection of paintings, fine prints, miniatures and sculptures – including works by van Gogh, Picasso and Rembrandt. Free entry.

Advertising
Mac Birmingham
  • Art
  • Arts centres

On the edge of Cannon Hill Park, Mac has been at the centre of Birmingham’s arts community for decades, and once counted Oscar-nominated Mike Leigh among its resident directors. Simply put, anyone interested in the fringes of modern theatre should make the Mac one of their first ports of call, as both the main theatre and smaller Hexagon space play host to some of the most cutting-edge theatre companies working today. There’s a small outdoor arena with theatre and live music in summer, and a first-floor gallery is filled with both touring works and commissions from Midlands artists.

  • Art
  • Galleries

A number of the empty warehouses and factories have been co-opted by creative types looking to use them for artistic purposes in Birmingham. That’s most obviously the case in Digbeth, where a former cabinet maker’s on Heath Mill Lane has been transformed into Eastside Projects. Founded in 2008 by a collective of artists that includes Gavin Wade, Ruth Claxton and architect Céline Condorelli, this vast building is the complete opposite of a cosy gallery space. It has two exhibition spaces, hosting four or five shows in each every year.

Advertising
  • Art

Re-opened to great fanfare in 2013 after a multi-million-pound makeover, this institution is a work of art in its own right. One of Europe’s largest regional libraries, the Library of Birmingham’s outer shell features a skin of metal hoops stretching across all six storeys. The interior design ranges from sleek modern funnel to book-lined Hogwarts-esque staircases. The gallery itself is located on the third floor, just next to the BFI Mediatheque, and most of the pictures on offer are taken from the library’s significant photographic archive (including work from the likes of Sir Benjamin Stone, Val Williams and Brian Griffin).

Castle Fine Art Gallery
  • Art

Commercial galleries can sometimes be off-putting to art lovers who don’t have a few thousand pounds handy, but that’s certainly not the case with Castle Fine Art, part of a chain of UK galleries that began life in the West Midlands. Founder Paul Green was keen to create galleries that could be enjoyed by everybody, whether they wanted to look or buy, and that ethos stayed relevant even as the chain grew across the country. The Birmingham outpost in the International Convention Centre has been operating for over two decades, making it one of the city’s longest-running galleries.

Advertising
  • Art
  • Arts centres

The Vivid art collective was formed in 1992 to honour the legacy of the historic Birmingham Film and Video Workshop by producing interdisciplinary work for both its home city and the world. It closed in 2012 after a loss of funding, but this proved a mere bump in the road, and Vivid lives on at Digbeth’s Minerva Works in Fazeley Street as a streamlined, but still risk-taking, version of the original masterminded by Yasmeen Baig-Clifford. Vivid Projects has taken over a warehouse along the Warwick Bar canalside, using this momentous space to offer multimedia exhibitions, live performance and debates.

  • Art
  • Galleries

Part of the burgeoning artistic community in and around the Minerva Works in Digbeth, Grand Union is a free gallery that also includes eight purpose-built studios for Birmingham artists. As befits the art that’s been flooding out of Eastside these past few years, the work on offer is multidisciplinary – from video to sculpture to audio work. The great appeal of Grand Union, though, is that it’s a living, breathing space occupied by working artists beavering away behind the scenes.

After more solid recommendations?

The 20 best things to do in Birmingham right now
  • Things to do

To really learn about the city’s historic manufacturing neighbourhoods, inspired inventions and great sporting achievements, you’ll have to go exploring. Which is why we’ve put together this handy bucket-list guide.

Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising