The Barber Collection
The Barber Collection Birmingham Reviews
Barber Collection Jul 21, 2010
The Barber Collection is a small art museum in the grounds of the University of Birmingham. I had been keen to go for a while; I’ve spent time on the campus for various courses but never with time to spare. Today, I finally had a chance.
The collection is housed in a pleasant, airy building that looks as though it was built in the 1920s or 1930s. You get to the collection past a concert hall come lecture theatre, which leaves you with a strange feeling of sneaking into an actual university building rather than a museum. And of course, that is partly what it is; the collection was established for educational purposes as part of the university itself, and is open to the public anyway. It also houses some of the university art libraries and departments; I’m a little jealous of people who get to study in such a lovely building.
The collection itself is fascinating. I think I sort of went round backwards, but I’m sure that won’t surprise anyone who knows me! There are a lot of late 19th and early 20th century works, including a lot of excellent Degas, an unusually vibrant Monet, a Gaugain, and a Turner. These were my second favourites after a (possibly temporary) display of 20th century prints, including works by Egon Schiele (who I first learned about in Vienna) and Kathe Kolwitz (who I’ve only come across in the USA until now). The print works were very striking and interesting, but I’m not sure if they are always there. There are also some 18th and 19th century portraits, which I’m less into, but which include some Gainsboroughs and a surprising number of portraits by famous female artists. Well, three or four. But that’s unusual for the 18th century. The religious art was fascinating, and included some very lovely, very old saints. There are even older things dotted about the display cabinets, including an Irish Torque that is around 2500 years old but looks like it was made yesterday, a stunningly well preserved medieval ivory box and some ancient Egyptian pottery.
Admission is free, and the train ticket to the university is £1.80 from New Street station (July 2010 prices). I’m not sure about disabled access; I forgot to check if there is a lift. There are some very nice staff, a small shop, and a very small café. All in all, I’m glad I finally had time to go there and think it’d be worth the short trip from the city centre to see it. There are also occasional concerts which would definitely be worth a trip.
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