The Barber springs back to life with exciting exhibitions and events

Blues Dance Claudette Johnson
Claudette Johnson, Blues Dance, 2023

The galleries at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts reopen to the public on Saturday 22 June, with no fewer than three great exhibitions.   

The historic Grade I listed building will be opening the doors to its globally important collection and temporary exhibitions following more than eight months of essential building improvements.  

Phase One of the 10 million scheme has centred on a complete refurbishment of the Lady Barber Gallery, the building’s principal exhibition space. Pop in to see the impressive new walls, beautiful new wooden floor, glass doors and state-of-the-art lighting. 

Claudette Johnson: Darker Than Blue

This great show in the Lady Barber Gallery features recent and new work by leading British artist Claudette Johnson, some created especially for the exhibition. 

Johnson, shortlisted for this year’s Turner Prize, is best known for her powerful depictions of the Black figure, reasserting its presence in histories of Western art. Don’t miss her first solo show in the West Midlands, featuring large and vibrant paintings as well as smaller, intimate sketches. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a rich programme of events, including a talk by Johnson herself, the chance to wander through the galleries after hours and a British Sign Language tour (BSL) by deaf artist Olivier Jamin who will bring a unique perspective on the artwork displayed.  

The Hidden Lives of Plants: Botanical illustrations from the V&A  

Discover stunning botanical illustrations from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, providing an insight into the role they played in medicine, commerce, gender roles and colonial histories.  

Combined with materials from Winterbourne and Cadbury Research Library, the exhibition showcases more than 400 years of botanical imagery. 

The Barber will be hosting a free nature-themed family art festival in August, where you and the family can connect with art through nature and play. 

Women in Power: Coins from the Barber Collection  

Experience the captivating collection of historical women who have appeared on coins, including female rulers and icons whose narratives have often been reshaped, distorted, or diminished over centuries and millennia, or molded to fit the stereotypes of their times.  

As well as reviving these stories, the collection explores how the presentation of gender has changed throughout time and cultures.  

You can join a workshop for families to create your own coin design with the kids, as well as a lunchtime talk by the Barber’s Coin Curator Dr Maia Vrij

Unstill Life: Global Mobility and Consumerism in Still Life Paintings 

Still life paintings have often been considered as impressive assortments of inanimate objects, however, there is also a dynamic and mobile history intrinsic to their production: the expansion of global trade and rise of consumerism. 

Head to the Blue Gallery for this fascinating collection of still life paintings, which will expand your understanding – instead of asking ‘what do the objects in these images signify?’, you’ll be questioning ‘at what cost did these things get here?’

Exterior of the The Barber Institute of Fine Arts framed by autumnal trees

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts


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