Birmingham isn't called the “Second City” for nothing.
Art lovers have known for years that few English places can rival the Warwickshire metropolis for galleries and viewing spaces outside London.
Much of all that is aesthetically pleasing in Brum converges on Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Chamberlain Square, which includes collections boasting over 500,000 objects. It is also home to one of the world's finest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art. Birmingham Printmakers: Thirty Years of Printmaking 1983-2013 runs until January 19, 2014, showcasing work in Gallery 20 by members of the Birmingham printmakers group.
Eastside Projects (EP), Heath Mill Lane, is an exhibition space that is being imagined and organised by artists. The Library of Birmingham hosts its Trading Post exhibition from December 10-15, which takes its cue from 1970 children's show Multi Coloured Swap Shop. All the displayed artworks will be available to swap. Offers can include time, skills, objects or know-how - anything except money of any currency - art for a haircut, art for cake, art for life coaching, even art for welding for example.
Ikon, Oozells Square, is an internationally acclaimed contemporary art venue and educational charity. It re-opens after building maintenance on December 4 with launches of exhibitions by Tim Johnson and David Tremlett. Johnson's The Luminescent Ground runs until February 9, 2014. His paintings feature Buddhist deities, native Americans, extra-terrestrials and Christian angels floating in a pictorial landscape articulated by Papunya dots and circles. Tremlett's 3 Drawing Rooms runs until April 21, 2014.
It will transform second floor galleries with geometric shapes, applied to the walls using pastel pigment and engine grease. All three rooms' compositions contrast: horizontal and vertical rectangular blocks of vibrant colour, and grey and black, playing off the volumes of architectural space in order to alter our perception of them.
Even some of Birmingham's business hubs enjoy an artistic edge. The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, in the heart of Birmingham’s buzzing creative and digital district, calls itself “the most powerful cluster of creative and digital businesses, independent retailers and event venues outside London”. It has just won The Great Place award at the Urbanism Awards 2014.
- Christine Hill in the Volksboutique Small Business, Berlin 2010, © Felix Oberhage. Courtesy Volksboutique, Galerie EIGEN+ART Leipzig/Berlin and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts New York