A Life in Prints: The Tessa Sidey Bequest

The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery situated in Victoria square is currently buzzing with visitors to see the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition and The Staffordshire Hoard which are currently housed there. However, despite these prestigious collections travelling quite some distance to Birmingham, one of the most intriguing and eclectic collections is one very closely related to the gallery itself.

After her death on New Year’s Day, Tessa Sidey, former curator of prints and drawings within the gallery, bequeathed her personal collection to the museum. And the exhibit A Life in Prints: The Tessa Sidey Bequest displays these artworks providing an intimate insight into the former curator’s personal tastes.

Gallery 20 is an appropriate temporary home for this collection of pieces. The white walls allow any visitor to really appreciate the both the colourful and shaded, which there is a most certainly a mixture. Ranging from Catherine Yass’ images of city life, which are a busy mixture of bright neon shades and dynamic lines created by capturing city lights, to the muted black and white etchings from a collection of artists, to the minimalist work of Josef Albers. Despite the potential with such a range of works they are arranged in a way that the complement each other perfectly and are extremely enjoyable to view one after another.

Furthermore, there are a handful of pieces that stand out because of their relation to the recent events and modern culture. It is not often in a museum that one could find a mixed media work depicting Che Guevara so close to a portrait of Lily Cole. However, this only adds to the sense of the collection belonging to an individual working with portrayals of society  in art within the BMAG for 30 years. Also, the personal feel of this collection is particularly striking when viewing Keith Piper’s work The Ghosts of Christendom next to an image of Tessa Sidey alongside the work itself.

This exhibit is fascinating to look round and a pleasant contrast to the vast range of more traditional paintings the gallery houses as permanent exhibits. I would strongly suggest a visit and not to be too tempted to rush straight into the queue to view Da Vinci’s work at the risk of by-passing this gem of a collection.


A Life in Prints: Tessa Sidey is on display until Sunday 4th March 2012.

Words by Beth Dawson

Related Links:
Lost in Lace
Ten Drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci
John Myers: Middle England
What is Art?


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