Ikon Gallery will be rolling out the celebrations in 2014 as they mark 50 years of championing modern and contemporary art with a special series of events and exhibitions. Casting a nostalgic glance back to some of its landmark exhibitions over the past five decades and the now famous faces whose careers were nurtured in the gallery, Ikon 50 promises a programme that spans photorealism to bronzework, John Salt to Julian Opie.
Kick-starting the series of events and giving a taster of things to come is David Tremlett’s 3 Drawing Rooms, on display currently running until 21 April 2014. Filling the space with sprawling wall drawings of arcs, circles, trapeziods, all applied by hand, Tremlett aims to create new geometric rhythms and pauses, enjoying the interrelationship between the straight lines and curves, blasts of colour and the carefully-constructed abstract elements.
2014 then begins with the first solo exhibition from Kurdish artist Jamal Penjweny, whose film and photography work captures 12 images of Iraqi people each holding a life-size image of Saddam Hussein’s face in front of his own. Other collections running throughout the year include the most comprehensive UK exhibition of Belgian artist Michael François and Korean artist Lee Bull’s first ever UK solo show, examining gender politics and idealism in modernism, science fiction and the development of modern technology, featuring a suspended sculpture dripping with crystalline beads and glass shapes. Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year 2013 Imran Qureshi’s show, looking at the influence of current affairs in Pakistan in his work, Angolan artist Nástio Mosquito’s video installations and A.K.Dolven’s homage to Norwegian artist Peder Balke also form highlights of the festivities, running up to April 2015.
Meanwhile, Ikon Icons will see a return to five key British artists representing five decades of the gallery, each displaying their work in the Tower Room, corresponding to their earlier shows at Ikon. From John Salt, the very first artist to exhibit there in 1965, on the cusp of his embrace with photorealism, the exhibition moves to Ian Emes’ 1973 film animation, through Cornelia Parker’s 1988 seminal work, Thirty Pieces of Silver, and Yinka Shonibare’s combination of found objects and African fabric, ending on the new work of Julian Opie that was ushered in with the new millennium. Ikon 1980s also forms a key part of the celebrations, as the gallery reviews its programme from 1978-1989 and an era that changed the face of British art history, including the work of Helen Chadwick, Dennis Oppenheim, Vanley Burke, Sean Scully and Susan Hiller.
Remembering the restless movement of the gallery over the years, from its founding site in the Bullring shopping centre in 1964 as a “gallery without walls”, to the Pallasades shopping centre where it was once the casualty of an IRA bomb, to its current location in the converted Victorian school at Brindelyplace, the anniversary celebrations also centre on its role within the city of Birmingham. This is manifested in the unveiling of a sculpture by Gillian Wearing, positioned outside the Library of Birmingham and the result of a quest to find, and immortalise in bronze, a “real” Birmingham family who become the face of and a lasting memorial to the people of the city.
Ikon 50 is open now and runs until April 2015 at the Ikon Gallery, 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, Birmingham, B1 2HS.