ANNUAL REVIEW: 2023
We would like to thank everyone who has visited Ikon Gallery this year to experience art for free and all those who have participated in our off-site projects, talks, tours and workshops.
We also extend a heartfelt thank you to our artists, supporters and partners, Ikon staff team and Board of Trustees. We are especially grateful to our core funders, the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and Birmingham City Council.
Our major partners in 2023 included: Bagri Foundation; Birmingham City Council; Birmingham City University; Birmingham Hospice; British Council; Changing Our Lives; Coventry University, Creative Connections; Embassy of the Netherlands; Fluxus Art Projects; Freelands Foundation; Handsworth Library; HM Prison and Probation Service; Italian Cultural Institute; The Modern Institute; Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust; Museum MACAN; Melati Suryodarmo Exhibition Circle; University of Birmingham; University of Leeds.
Please continue to support Ikon by visiting our exhibitions; taking part in an event or workshop; joining our Patrons group; making a donation when you can; choosing our independent shop for your gifts; or hiring our rooms for work events. By engaging with Ikon in these ways you are helping to keep the gallery free for all.
In March, Ikon collaborated with Birmingham artist and activist Foka Wolf; the School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham; and rights-based organisation Changing Our Lives, for Why Are We Stuck in Hospital? This ground-breaking installation, at Ikon and The Exchange, illustrated the invisibility of people with learning disabilities and / or autistic people in long-stay hospitals.
Horror in the Modernist Block ran through to May, showing work by 20 UK and international artists, exploring the relationship between architectural modernism and horror. The exhibition was enhanced by live music performance, including Le Corbusier’s Dream of Machines, curated by Leon Trimble, and Pipework by Robert Cervera with Ikon Youth Programme and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
In the Summer, Ikon transformed its galleries into a platform for performance art, with the first UK exhibition by acclaimed Indonesian performance artist Melati Suryodarmo. Live performances included Suryodarmo’s extraordinary 12-hour solo work, I’m a Ghost in My Own House and a collaborative performance with The Voice of Domestic Workers and Vivid Projects, Passionate Pilgrim Extended.
Autumn / Winter featured brightly coloured abstract paintings by Mali Morris, who first exhibited at Ikon Gallery in 1979; and an exhibition of Dean Kelland’s new films, prints and sketchbooks, the culmination of his four-year residency at HMP Grendon (2019-2023), funded by the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust.
This year’s Migrant Festival centred on three Birmingham photographers who collaborated with inner-city communities to share their stories of migration. Vanley Burke’s A Gift to Birmingham, commissioned by University of Birmingham, showcased portraits of members of Migrant Voice. Ayesha Jones’ Leave A Light In My Room, commissioned by Birmingham Hospice and Ikon, featured photographic portraits of the Erdington Asian Group, north Birmingham, and discussions on issues of ageing and dying well. Maryam Wahid’s Dreams of Brum, focused on topics of migration and identity via photographic portraits taken at Handsworth Library during community workshops – now on display at the library until 31 March.
Ikon Youth Programme, supported by Freelands Foundation (2021-2024), continued to navigate West Midlands waterways. They spent time print-making, weaving and writing, visiting Slow Boat at each of its locations. IYP co-produced new work for exhibitions with artists Seungwon Jung, for Coventry Biennial, and Ashokkumar D Mistry, for International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Ikon exhibited artworks made by pupils from thirteen Birmingham primary schools during Spring / Summer 2023, as part of Creative Connections, the regional schools’ consortium. 930 primary school pupils collaborated with Birmingham-based visual artists back in their classrooms to create bold and experimental pieces responding to the theme ‘journeys’.
Dean Kelland’s residency as part of Art at HMP Grendon comes to an end after four years (2019-2023). The impact of his work at the prison cannot be overstated and we are thankful for his commitment and care. We are also extremely grateful to the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust who continue to support Ikon’s work at Grendon and in January we will announce our new artist in residence.
“Working alongside these professionals has instilled a sense of self-worth I have never previously known within my years of incarceration. No longer the feral individual you wouldn’t want as a neighbour, I am now a man with hope in my future.” ‘B’, C wing community, HMP Grendon.
Ikon’s work has gained extensive press attention. Here are some of the highlights:
Arts Editor Cal Revely-Calder gave Dean Kelland’s exhibition 4 stars in his review for The Telegraph: “In the light of Britain’s contempt for prisoners, Grendon is a politically heroic place.” Art Quarterly commissioned an extensive article by David Trigg and Elizabeth Fullerton visited HMP Grendon in preparation for her article for The Guardian.
As we look towards 2024, Ikon prepares to mark its 60th anniversary. Established as an artists-led alternative space in the Bullring in 1964, Ikon remains free to all and committed to showcasing the very best of British and international art.
We have an exciting programme planned, beginning with our Spring exhibitions Start the Press! and Exodus Crooks: Epiphany (Temporaire), launching on 8 February. In the Summer, Ikon collaborates with the National Gallery to present a masterpiece by Artemisia Gentileschi, plus solo exhibitions by artists Jesse Jones and Dion Kitson. For Autumn / Winter, we show works by over 20 artists from the British Council Collection and macLYON that explore the theme of friendship. Our full programme for 2024 is available here.
Partners include: The Ampersand Foundation; Arts Council of Ireland; Birmingham City Council; British Council; Culture Ireland; English Heritage; The Foundation Foundation; Freelands Foundation; HM Prison and Probation Service; Jerwood Foundation; Living Well Consortium; macLYON; Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust; National Gallery; The Saintbury Trust; University of Birmingham.
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Thank you for all the support and we look forward to seeing you again next year.