The Public Art Centre

Public Art Centre in Bromwich UK

Public Art Centre in Bromwich UK

The Public Art Centre in West Bromwich UK recently opened, and is already demounting many of its exhibits which have failed to perform. The Art Newspaper has been tracking this project June 08 and Feb 09. Their recent piece on the opening is only in print and not yet online.

I have not been there but from what I can tell The Public is a peculiar hybrid of museum types with the aim of being all inclusive, community-oriented, friendly and accessible in posture and yet holding it self up as a premier international art museum housed in an iconic architecture. They have no collection of their own. Instead it is filled with loaned exhibitions, and site-specific installations. For the opening at least there seems to be an emphasis on digital and interactive art. As they state in their own words “The Public has something for everyone, putting amateur work beside professional, young next to old and setting local projects right alongside digital exhibits and contemporary sculpture by top international artists.”

Apparently the building was design by Wil Alsop but design was at some point taken over by another firm. It shows. This procees seems as indecisive as the museum’s program. I suspect this is the echo of the Bilbao Effect, discussed on a previous post, but it took too long to realize this one (it began in 1993, opened in 2009) that the mission and architecture had to be hastily revised to address the changed climate since the crash of Sept 2008. By the time it opened the world has changed and the original vision looks quite outdated. Its kind of like a guest arriving late to a party dressed to the nines and full of enthusiasm only to discover that everyone who is still there is busy cleaning up the mess. It does question whether iconic museum architecture can be sustained, or even if it should be. Is it a good idea to have something for everyone? Can you really make a successful museum out of nothing? Does anyone know more about this strange and elusive project?


3 responses to “The Public Art Centre

  1. I wonder if this was Will Alsop’s last project before he quit architecture to be a painter…
    I don’t know anything more about the museum, but it does seem to be schizophrenic. The non-collecting gallery model is pretty common in Europe, but I think you have to be quite focused to pull it off. People need to get a sense of who you are, and if they don’t know what you have (as in, they’re not making the trek to Birmingham to see something in your permanent collection) then they’d better have a good idea what you stand for. This museum obviously has no idea what it stands for, so why should people make the trip to see it? And I’ll bet they can’t be relying on locals for all their attendance.
    It would be interesting to compare it to the BALTIC in Gateshead (which, incidentally, is much further from London), which also has no permanent collection. Admittedly, I don’t really know how well they’re doing, but I know that their exhibitions and projects always look interesting, and if I were in the UK, I’d try to make the trip. I also feel like I have a grasp on their identity.
    Anyone been to the BALTIC?


    Closure is not far away, the auditors KPMG recommend it. West Bromwich is a very poor area with high unemployment and has very few amenities and little cash, for example the swimming pool was demolished recently and not replaced and it has no cinemas. Without external funding the project cannot survive as it does not have a viable business plan to provide the necessary income stream of its own. External funding has effectively dried up. The problem now is that the organisations who have provided funding so far may demand their money back if the project is demolished and Sandwell MBC will find that a very stiff ask indeed.

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