Jewel of the South: Birmingham Museum of Art

By ArtAndCultureMaven | Nov 16, 2020
North America > United States > Alabama > Birmingham

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.

Birmingham Museum of Art, main entrance (image by A Wassenberg)

Birmingham Museum of Art, main entrance (image by A Wassenberg)

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.

Courtyard, Birmingham Museum of Art, Image by A Wassenberg

Courtyard, Birmingham Museum of Art, Image by A Wassenberg

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.

Hungry Man's Cross (2006) - left  Mixed media by Lonnie Holley, born in Birmingham AL 1950

Hungry Man's Cross (2006) - left Mixed media by Lonnie Holley, born in Birmingham AL 1950

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.

Birmingham Museum of Art, main floor

Birmingham Museum of Art, main floor

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.

Small European Treasures

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.

Two by Thomas Gainsborough

Two by Thomas Gainsborough

Even a Dali.

Perseus - Homage to Benevenuto Cellini (1976)  Salvador Dali  Bronze, gift to the Museum

Perseus - Homage to Benevenuto Cellini (1976) Salvador Dali Bronze, gift to the Museum

Civil Rights Movement

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)

Local

There is a deliberate emphasis on including local and regional Southern American artists of colour in the collections and exhibits.

oil paintings by Charles Eugene Shannon  American (1914-1996)

oil paintings by Charles Eugene Shannon American (1914-1996)

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

Wedgwood

The Museum houses the largest collection of Wedgwood ceramics outside the UK - luminous and endless galleries of beautiful decorative items.

Vintage Wedgwood from the Birmingham Museum of Art collection

Vintage Wedgwood from the Birmingham Museum of Art collection

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.

Ceramics from the African continent

Ceramics from the African continent

Callaghan Gallery

Callaghan Gallery

Japanese gallery

Japanese gallery

Birmingham Museum of Art
2000 Rev. Abraham Woods, Jr. Blvd
(Formerly 2000 8th Ave. N)
Birmingham, AL 35203
T: 205.254.2565
F: 205.731.9425

Things to do Museum History Art

Share this tip:

Written by ArtAndCultureMaven
I'm a writer, traveler, and blogger interested in the intersections of travel and culture.

Thoughts? Questions?

See also

Accommodations

Tours and activities

NYC Bridge and River Bicycle Tour

The Bridge and River tour is a scenic 3-hour bicycle tour will take you from the Upper West Side of New York City up and over the George Washington Bridge for a ride along the river on Route 9W. Get the full touring experience and leave New York City for a few hours. During the ride, we make stops at Grants Tomb Memorial on the Upper West Side.

Chilling Charleston Macabre Walking Ghost Tour

Tales of ghosts, legends, and murderers, Gas lit streets, Peak at graveyards , Haunted History Tales...

Coronavirus Information & Resources