Ikon announces 50th anniversary celebrations

Ikon announces 50th anniversary celebrations
Yareah Magazine

November 2013. Ikon announces 50th anniversary celebrations

Ikon, Oozells Street  School, Brindleyplace, 1998, courtesy Ikon

Ikon, Oozells Street School, Brindleyplace, 1998, courtesy Ikon

Ikon, Birmingham’s internationally acclaimed art gallery, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014-15. A series of special exhibitions and events, collectively known as Ikon 50, is planned to mark the milestone year.

Ikon Icons sees a return to Ikon by five key British artists from an exhibition programme that has articulated five decades, each presenting work in the gallery’s Tower Room corresponding to their earlier shows at Ikon. John Salt was the first artist to have an exhibition at Ikon, in April 1965, on the cusp of his embrace of photorealism, whilst Ian Emes’ 1973 film animation heralded the start of a brilliant career, amongst other things visualising the music of Pink Floyd. In 1988 Cornelia Parker exhibited her seminal work Thirty Pieces of Silver and ten years later likewise Yinka Shonibare’s combination of found objects and African fabric was a defining moment. The new millennium was ushered in by an ambitious programme that included a survey of new work by Julian Opie.
Ikon 1980s will be a highlight of the anniversary year, a review of Ikon’s programme from 1978-1989. The comprehensive selection of paintings, sculpture, installation, film and photography exemplifies a pivotal decade in British art history, including the work of Helen Chadwick, Dennis Oppenheim, Vanley Burke, Sean Scully and Susan Hiller.
An exhibition of photography and film by Kurdish artist Jamal Penjweny opens Ikon 50. Ikon Director Jonathan Watkins first encountered Penjweny’s work through research for the Iraqi Pavilion he curated at the 2013 Venice Biennale. There the photographic series Saddam is Here – twelve images of Iraqi people, each holding a life-size image of Saddam Hussein’s face in front of their own – was shown to great critical acclaim. This, his first solo exhibition, is a key moment for Ikon.
Other exhibitions include the work of Belgian artist Michel François in his most comprehensive UK exhibition to date, whilst the Korean artist Lee Bul presents her first ever UK solo show. Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year 2013 Imran Qureshi visits Ikon from Pakistan, and David Tremlett’s colourful drawings cover every inch of the walls on Ikon’s second floor. The year finishes with a compelling video installation by Angolan artist Nástio Mosquito, shown in stark contrast to the minimalism of A.K. Dolven whose exhibition includes the seascapes of her fellow Norwegian, the nineteenth century painter Peder Balke.
Late in 2014, Ikon will unveil a sculpture by Gillian Wearing, positioned outside the Library of Birmingham. A Real Birmingham Family is the outcome of the artist’s quest to find, and immortalise in bronze, a ‘real’ Birmingham family. From over 370 nominations, a judging panel chose the Jones family – two sisters and their sons – to be the subjects of this new commission. The sculpture of Roma and her sister Emma, along with their young sons Kyan and Shaye, will celebrate the everyday and the unsung and be a lasting memorial to the people of Birmingham.
Ikon 50 will also include an extensive public programme of talks, events, film screenings, conferences and audience engagement projects.
Established in 1964 by a group of artists looking for a new, accessible place to share artistic ideas, Ikon’s first home was in a glass-sided kiosk in the Bullring shopping centre, a ‘gallery without walls’. Since then, Ikon has had many homes around the city centre, including the Pallasades shopping centre where, in 1974, the gallery was the unintended casualty of an IRA bomb, the actual target being the army recruitment office next door. Ikon moved to its current Brindleyplace venue in 1998, converting the former Victorian school into a contemporary gallery space now welcoming over 130,000 visitors a year.
From a humble start, Ikon has grown to develop a worldwide reputation with an internationalist outlook. In recent years, exhibiting artists have hailed from China, Japan, Australia, France, USA, Russia, Canada and the Pacific Islands, in addition to homegrown Birmingham talent including John Salt, John Myers, Ruth Claxton, Stuart Whipps and Hurvin Anderson. Throughout its 50 years, Ikon has played a key role in the development of many artistic careers – Antony Gormley, Cornelia Parker, Julian Opie and Carmen Herrera all had important exhibitions here, to name just a few.
As part of Ikon 50, Ikon will undertake its largest fundraising campaign to date, in a concerted effort to ensure that Ikon continues to grow, making the very best in contemporary art available to all.
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm; Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays
Location: 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, Birmingham, B1 2HS
Ikon Gallery is supported using public funding from Arts Council England and Birmingham City Council.
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