The Birmingham Museum of Art is worth at least an afternoon's leisurely perusal, and, with more than 24,000 paintings, sculptures, and more, possibly a second visit to properly appreciate all the collections on view.
Well attended by locals, the Museum probably doesn't make it on many touristy lists, and that's just wrong. There is a large, interesting, and diverse collection to be discovered in a gorgeous and colourful building.
At the east end of the building, you'll find the Museum's signature work. The New York based artist was bowled over by his trip west in 1859, and completed this painting from sketches and studies back in his Manhattan studio. It's internationally recognized as a particularly fine example of landscape art.
Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California. 1865 Oil on canvas. 64 1/2 × 96 1/2 inches by Albert Bierstadt American
It's on display beside a large abstract painting by artist Helen Frankenthaler. Frankenthaler's abstract works are inspired by the landscapes she's experienced, and she creates her work by pouring acrylic paint on a canvas, then apply brushstrokes. A third piece nearby forms a kind of intriguing triptych.
Like this area, the current shows mix historic and contemporary works in thought-provoking ways, while the Museum's various collections are organized in more conventional geographic and historic categories.
A long hallway runs through the entire ground floor, itself mounted with a current exhibition. Along the hallway, doors lead to a labyrinth of smaller galleries winding off to each side, with walls painted in a distinctive array of colours.
Here are some of the highlights and recurring themes you'll find.
There are some surprising small treasures of the Eurocentric tradition. We can all now recognize at what cost the Eurocentric world came to be, but perhaps the one thing we can gain from the exercise is the notion that, in a society that flourishes, the arts do as well, and I think you can see that principle in play all over the world as the shadow of colonialism begins to lift. In the meantime, there is Gainsboroough.
Even a Dali.
There's an emphasis on the city's key role in the Civil Rights Movement and its history, including some key photographs and other artistic expression of the movement and time period.
First Desegregated Bus Ride: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Rev. Ralph Abernathy on first desegregated bus ride - Montgomery, AL December 1956, printed 1994 by Ernest C. Withers, American (1922-2007)
There is a deliberate emphasis on including local and regional Southern American artists of colour in the collections and exhibits.
A native of Montgomery, AL - his work focuses on the everyday world of African Americans, a subject that was not at all the norm in its day.
Birmingham Museum of Art - Wedgwood collection
The Museum houses the largest collection of Wedgwood ceramics outside the UK - luminous and endless galleries of beautiful decorative items.
Upstairs from the foyer, you reach a gallery level, with similar smaller galleries off a central promenade. The collections on the second level feature works and artifacts from all over the globe.
Birmingham Museum of Art
2000 Rev. Abraham Woods, Jr. Blvd
(Formerly 2000 8th Ave. N)
Birmingham, AL 35203
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