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Reference Works: The Library of Birmingham Photography Project

From 3rd September until 29th December, the  Library of Birmingham will be hosting Reference Works, a major new exhibition of photographs by Michael Collins, Brian Griffin, Andrew Lacon and Stuart Whipps. The exhibition is the product of the largest and most important photography commission ever undertaken in the city and will be the inaugural exhibition in the new Discovery Gallery at the Library of Birmingham. 

The Library of Birmingham Press Release

Reference Works : a major photography exhibition of new work by Michael Collins, Brian Griffin, Andrew Lacon and Stuart Whipps commemorates the opening of the Library of Birmingham

3 September 2013 – 29 December 2013, Library of Birmingham Gallery, Library of Birmingham

The Library of Birmingham presents Reference Works, a major new exhibition of photographs by Michael Collins, Brian Griffin, Andrew Lacon and Stuart Whipps. The exhibition is the product of the largest and most important photography commission ever undertaken in the city and will be the inaugural exhibition in the new Discovery Gallery at the Library of Birmingham when it opens to the public on 3 September 2013. The four artists were commissioned in 2011 to create visual responses to the old Central Library building and to the new Library of Birmingham. Each artist’s work focusses on a different aspect of the project: Griffin’s composed yet often irreverent series portrays the people of the Library of Birmingham project; Collins’s topographical approach includes the use of high vantage points and a large format camera to document faithfully the construction of a 21st century library; Lacon’s sculptural forms question the nature of photography and what it is to ‘document’; while Whipps, whose practice draws on in-depth research into cultural sites that are emotionally loaded or fraught, poignantly captures John Madin’s 1974 Central Library ahead of its demolition.

A complementary exhibition of photographs drawn from the institution’s internationally-important collections and presented in Centenary Square, in front of the new Library of Birmingham as an outdoor exhibition, will chart the history of Birmingham’s libraries.

A new ambitious publication featuring all the works created throughout the commission will also be launched. The hard back book has been produced in partnership with Opus and features photography and newly commissioned writing.

Reference Works was made possible with the help of a £62,000 grant from Arts Council of England and partnership support from Birmingham City University. Further sponsorship for the project has come from a range of construction, infrastructure and photography industry partners.

As part of Reference Works four emerging artists, graduates or students from Birmingham City University, were selected to participate in the Mentoring Programme. This professional development opportunity was developed linked to the four lead artists’ practice and intentions for this commission. In addition to the more traditional learning outcomes, the mentoring sought to contribute to the emerging artists’ professional development by offering and financially supporting the making and exhibiting of new work for exhibition. The mentored artists are Mihaela Calin, Andre de Jong, Anne Pawlak and Nathan Spencer

The exhibition of their work will be open at Space 35, Park Side Building, Birmingham City University on the 3rd September

The commission is led by the Library of Birmingham Photography Department which has a successful record commissioning contemporary photography, curating exhibitions, developing private and public sector partnerships, and managing the institution’s massive historical photography archive. In 2006 the archive was awarded Designated Status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in recognition of its national and international importance. The department has an established track record of commissioning and acquiring new creative photography about the city and this project is another example of this vital work.

The Library of Birmingham is working with national and international partners to create GRAIN, a hub and network for photography and photographers that will include research and development projects and a range of ambitious high quality opportunities all aimed to strengthen and sustain photography in the region. GRAIN is supported by Arts Council England and will make the Library of Birmingham a national and international centre for photography.

Published: Friday, August 30, 2013

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