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Birmingham Museum of Art Spreads Love of Art

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The exterior of the Birmingham Museum of Art is shown. (Photo by Mark Almond)

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The Birmingham Museum of Art is calling on art lovers across the city to pay a visit to its galleries during the month of February with its ‘I Heart Art’ campaign.

“At the BMA, we believe that art is an essential part of the human experience, which is why we are proud to offer free admission to all,” says Graham C. Boettcher, R Hugh Daniel Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art. “Our goal is to spread the love of art far and wide, so make plans to visit the Museum soon. Our collection of more than 27,000 works of art represents cultures around the world and across time. Come solo or bring a friend for a stroll around our galleries. You’re sure to find something you’ll love.”

The BMA is one of the few art museums of its kind in the country to offer free admission to the general public. Objects in its collection date back as far as 5,000 years and include works by artists creating in the present day.

Its global collection offers visitors the opportunity to explore the world through art made in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The galleries are constantly being refreshed with different rotations and exhibitions that focus on compelling themes or genres.

To help connect visitors to art in its collection, the Birmingham Museum of Art is participating in the Hearts for Art project. From February 7 through 28, visitors may pick up paper hearts at the Museum’s front desk and leave them by their favorite works of art while they walk around the galleries.

In a real-life Instagram experiment, visitors will be able to see which pieces in our collection are the most beloved as works of art accumulate ‘likes.’ Hearts will be available at both Museum entrances. Hearts for Art began seven years ago at the Oakland Museum of California and the Columbus Museum of Art. Since then, museums across the country, including the BMA, have joined in.

Visitors are also encouraged to share their artwork crushes on social media for a chance to win a professional photography session with a loved one in front of their favorite work of art. Participants should tag #iheartart and @bhammuseum when posting photos and the BMA will repost some of their favorite shots.

 Current Exhibitions to Love 

Light Play

 Light Play has recently undergone a rotation and features many new works to enjoy. Light Play is an exhibition taken from the Museum’s permanent collection that explores the themes of light and play in art. The artists in this show explore the various meanings of “light” and “play” through their media, expression, and form choices. These artworks transmit feelings of joy, whimsy, and wonder in both subtle and distinct ways.

These galleries feature works by over 30 artists, including Afruz Amighi, Kumi Yamashita, and Harry Anderson, who incorporate light and shadows as a part of their art. Meanwhile, artists like Tayeba Begum Lipi, Kerry James Marshall, and Demond Melancon use the opulent effects of light interacting with shine and glitter to invite viewers into a serious dialogue.

Debra Riffe’s prints from the series walk, in the direction you goin’ in tell a powerful story using silhouette forms, and the photographs of Chester Higgins, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, and Jerry Uelsmann creatively capture the playful whimsy of their subjects. John Bankston, Amir H. Fallah, and David Shrobe use color and lightheartedness to tell complex stories in their art.

Together, these works reflect an expanse of contemporary artworks incorporating light and play. Whether using it literally or conceptually, each artist employs light’s profound influence or captures a playfulness that lights up the room.

Expanding Darshan: Manjari Sharma, To See and Be Seen

 If you haven’t taken in this exhibition, it’s a must see. Combing ancient objects with contemporary art offers a compelling look at the worship of Hindu deities over thousands of years. Bringing together the striking work of rising star—global contemporary artist Manjari Sharma—with the diverse historic collections of the Birmingham Museum of Art, this exhibition introduces nine of the most significant deities of the Hindu pantheon and their contemporary relevance in art and faith, serving as a gateway to the concept of darshan—seeing and being seen by the divine. The vibrant, varied, and sometimes contradictory stories of these gods—as well as their familial relationships with each other—are shared through the works in this exhibition.

Artist Manjari Sharma makes work that is rooted in portraiture and addresses issues of identity, multiculturalism, and personal mythology. Her Darshan series began as a multiyear, crowdfunded project through the online platform Kickstarter. She aimed to photographically recreate the experience of encountering nine Hindu deities in temple settings, a project which required the cross-continental organization of a large team of models and craftspeople.

An extraordinary aspect of Sharma’s work is her commitment to creating each scene without digital manipulation. All items visible in the images were present when photographed, not digitally added later. The Birmingham Museum of Art is the only institution to have the entirety of the Darshan series in its collection.

Ways of Seeing: Sports and Games

 Whoever said art and athletics don’t mix? This series is entirely dedicated to the celebration of sports and games through art. Ways of Seeing: Sports and Games is an exhibition drawn from across the Museum’s permanent collection that shows the influence of sports and games on art. From ancient to contemporary, art has emphasized the importance of sports to societies globally. While images of athletes and games have had major impacts on artistic practices worldwide, art has also shaped the image of the athlete in popular consciousness. Drawing a parallel between the artists and athletes, this exhibition reveals the longstanding relationship between art and sports and games.

Wall to Wall: Rico Gatson

 This exhibition is hard to miss, as it cover the walls surrounding the BMA’s main lobby. The second iteration of Wall to Wall presented by PNC features Brooklyn-based contemporary artist Rico Gatson, who will transform the walls of the Museum lobby with a colorful, life-size image of an iconic Birmingham figure and an abstract composition. On Friday, August 5, guests attending Museum’s signature event, Art on the Rocks, will be invited to paint alongside Rico in the lobby to help complete the installation. Through community engagement, Gatson hopes to bring the energy from the Civil Rights movement into the present. Born in Augusta, Georgia, Gatson grew up in Southern California and received his BFA from Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1989, and MFA from Yale School of Art in 1991.

Museum Shop  

During your visit, you can shop the world at the BMA’s store, which features unique objects and gifts for purchase. These items are sourced from right here in Birmingham to far and wide, across the globe. Check out jewelry by local artists, art supplies, books, gifts for kids, and more.

 Wednesdays at BMA

Each Wednesday at the BMA, the Museum has begun to offer a coffee service by Dryft Coffee. Change up your usual remote work or study situation and get cozy at the BMA with coffee service from Dryft Coffee! Bring a friend or swing by solo; stay for a cup or linger longer with a visit through our galleries. Enjoy the restorative powers of art + coffee this Wednesday.

Dryft Coffee is a small batch specialty coffee roaster and a modern mobile coffee bar brewing incredible Coffee + Community. They offer ethically-sourced and locally-roasted coffees by women farmers and feature specialty coffees of India in a traditional brewing process called Kaapi. Dryft Coffee is a minority, woman-owned business.