Tate Modern-Sized Art Center Coming to Birmingham?

Philanthropists, now is your time!

The Ikon Gallery Photo: dzho.co.uk

The Ikon Gallery
Photo: dzho.co.uk

As funding cuts continue to bite, public art institutions have to find new ways to operate. In Birmingham, plans for a major art centre “the size of the Tate Modern” have had to be shelved. Ikon Gallery director Jonathan Watkins nonetheless insisted that the idea hadn’t been completely abandoned, the BBC reports.

Watkins believes that a larger, more modern gallery is essential if Birmingham is to compete with other large British and European cities. “Birmingham needs more to offer in terms of visual arts if it’s going to maintain its status as the second city,” he said. Yet it seems that this will only happen if private donors step up to the plate.

In 2011 Birmingham Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture, Martin Mullaney announced that he wanted to create three new public art galleries “so that we are up there with the likes of Barcelona and Berlin,” the BBC reported. He hoped to create 100,000 jobs in the region and add £8 billion to the local economy.

But the proposal for the new cluster of galleries, which was to be located at the location of the former Curzon Street train station, was dropped in favor of a high speed ‘HS2’ rail terminal.

Councillor Penny Holbrook told the BBC “Birmingham is rightly known for its great cultural scene and, as with all our cultural venues, we will continue to support the Ikon in its ambitions where we can; however, this has to be set in the context of the severe financial challenge faced by the city council.”

Birmingham City Council and the Birmingham Museums Trust have recently proposed drastic budget cuts aiming to reduce costs by £2.55 million ($3.82 million) by 2018. The plans would reduce staff, reduce the number of museum exhibitions, and restrict museum access, according to a factsheet distributed by Birmingham City Council.

Abi Rogansky, a spokesperson for the Birmingham Museums Trust, told artnet News in an email that “This suggested reduction in funding is likely to affect the scope of what Birmingham Museums Trust is able to offer as museums service.” She added that “The proposal is now subject to public consultation with a decision likely to be made in February 2015. No decisions have yet been made.”

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