Birmingham Celebrated In Huge New Cold War Steve Artwork

A new artwork which celebrates Birmingham and its people has been revealed by satirical collage artist Christopher Spencer, aka Cold War Steve, and Birmingham Museums Trust.

The hugely detailed work, Benny’s Babbies, is the artist’s most complex photocollage of his career to date, and was due to be revealed in his hometown at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery but has now been shared online whilst the doors to the museum are temporarily closed.

Spot comedian Joe Lycett and cricketer Moeen Ali, alongside Duran Duran and activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, with the members of Black Sabbath rocking out on top of the Rotunda building behind, where Benny from TV soap opera Crossroads (filmed in Birmingham) peers out over the crowd full with many more famous and recognisable Brummie faces.

Birmingham Museums Trust commissioned Cold War Steve to produce work inspired by the Trust’s digital image database, which hosts thousands of out-of-copyright images from the city’s collection which can be downloaded and used creatively for free.

The background of Benny’s Babbies is the View of St Martin’s Church Birmingham from the Bullring,1815-1835, by Thomas Hollins, which features on a japanned tray. The backdrop has been updated with familiar city scenes, including the Birmingham Pride Festival, the brutalist architecture of the now demolished Central Library, Birmingham’s beloved Mr. Egg takeaway, and the Central Birmingham Mosque.

Benny’s Babbies is part of a series of artistic interventions and events planned in partnership with Cold War Steve and Black Hole Club, called Cut, Copy, Remix. The project set out to encourage creative use of the thousands of public domain images from Birmingham’s collection to celebrate the extensive resource and support emerging digital artists to use the images to inspire brilliant and bizarre new work.

Following an open call out for artists, the Birmingham Museums team also commissioned Mixed Milk, a Birmingham artist called Martin McNally, to make a film about the works in the collection. Black Hole Club, an artist’s development programme based at Vivid Projects that supports artists in the West Midlands, have also commissioned artists Rosa Francesca and Alis Oldfield to create developmental digital art responding to the digital collection and its data.

Over the coming weeks, Birmingham Museums and Black Hole Club will be sharing their works on social media and online, both as works in progress and finished pieces, alongside interviews with the artists.

Cold War Steve has also taken his own satirical slant on some of Birmingham’s Pre-Raphalite works, for which Birmingham Museums hold one of the most important collections in the world. These additional two works will be released in May. All three Cold War Steve commissions will eventually go on display proudly at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery when it is able to re-open.

The artwork is being hosted online at www.thesocial.com/bennys-babbies/ and includes written submissions about the city from Cold War Steve, Joe Lycett, and novelists Kit de Waal and Jonathan Coe.

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