Ikon celebrates twenty years in Brindleyplace

City gallery marks landmark anniversary with new exhibitions.

Ikon opens its new exhibitions on 21st March, exactly twenty years to the day since the gallery doors were first opened to the public in Brindleyplace on 21 March 1998.

The iconic neo-gothic former school on Oozells Square is a Grade II listed building and was a focal point of the Brindleyplace development in the early 1990s. At this time Ikon, founded in the early 1960s, was outgrowing its current home in John Bright Street. By moving to Oozells Street School it returned the building to its original heritage as a place of learning and inspiration.

Funded by one of the first National Lottery capital grants, the conversion preserved the outside shell of the Victorian school, rebuilt the tower to its original design and added a glass-encased scenic lift and stairway. What were once large linked classrooms are spacious galleries showcasing the best in international contemporary art. Ikon stands as a focus for Oozells Square, welcoming over 130,000 visitors every year, with free entry for all.

Ikon has made its mark on Brindleyplace in many ways – showcasing artists’ work from all around the world, both in the gallery and in the squares of the Brindleyplace estate. Unique events have included sausage dogs in Oozells Square, Reverend Billy preaching against capitalism and a giant cityscape made out of clay. Ikon also houses an independent shop, stocking local authors and makers, and Yorks Café, serving speciality coffee and delicious lunches. Lastly Ikon’s Slow Boat frequently moors in Brindleyplace – a floating resource for artists, community groups and Ikon Youth Programme.

Ikon depiy director Ian Hyde said, “We are delighted to celebrate tweny years in Brindleyplace. As one of the very first tenants on the estate, Ikon Gallery has witnessed the changing environment, seeing new buildings rise up around our Grade II listed schoolhouse. Over the last twenty years, Ikon has welcomed millions of visitors to the gallery, worked with artists from all over the world and introduced contemporary art to generations of visitors.

“We also welcome the forthcoming changes to the area with the transformation of Paradise, the redevelopment of Centenary Square, the metro tram extending along Broad Street and new neighbours including HSBC UK and HMRC. The area continues to grow from strength to strength and Ikon looks forward to the new partnerships and opportunities that will arise from these new developments.”

This year, Ikon’s programme includes a major survey of work by Haroon Mirza, a revelation of new sculptures by Langlands & Bell, a riot of colour thanks to Polly Apfelbaum, an improvised installation by Rie Nakajima (with a little help from her musical friends), a judicious survey of paintings by extraordinary Czech artist Vladimír Kokolia, and the long-awaited return to Ikon of Francis Alÿs.