A season of exhibitions celebrates Birmingham and the Black Country as the birthplace of Heavy Metal with a massive Black Sabbath exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
BMAG’s suitably monumental exhibition charting the rise and popularity of arguably the city’s finest export – the world’s first Heavy Metal band, Black Sabbath – features an impressive 1,000 items celebrating the iconic band and their fans.
Created by Home of Metal, the company putting Heavy Metal on the map in Birmingham, in collaboration with the band and designer Morag Myerscough, the exhibition tells the story of Black Sabbath’s unique cultural legacy as pioneers of the cultural phenomenon, Heavy Metal.
Treasured personal items have been sourced direct from Sabbath members including Ozzy Osbourne’s crucifix, Tony Iommi’s home studio and outfits worn on stage at some of the band’s most infamous shows.
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They include white platform boots, golden crucifixes, silk shirts and scarves, skull and cross bone paraphernalia, leather jackets and that staple of the 70/80s Heavy Metal fan – the sleeveless denim ‘battle jacket’ – emblazoned with band patches sewn on by your mum.
Yet to really get a sense of the band’s continuing appeal it’s the collection of photos of the band’s global fan base – a fandom that apparently transcends age, gender, race and religion – that brings home the true power of the Sabbath and the Heavy Metal aesthetic they pioneered.
The Home of Metal Fans Portrait Collection runs into the thousands and captures Sabbath fans from Birmingham to Botswana – many of them in their heavy metal finery, which ranges from leathers and tattoos to denim and band t-shirts.
Another common denominator for this devoted tribe of fans is the worldwide symbol of heavy metal, the sign of the horns, which was popularised by sometime Black Sabbath singer Ronnie James Dio after he joined the band in 1979. He later claimed his Italian grandmother used it to ward off the evil eye.
As well as the collection of worldwide portraits the exhibition is packed with rare memorabilia, portraits and collections from the devoted fan base, there’s even a recreation of super-fan Stephen Knowles’ living room, which is a homage to Black Sabbath.
As Sabbath bass player Geezer Butler puts it: “I’ve always maintained that Sabbath fans are the most loyal and honest and most independently minded of all. I thank each and every one of them for their incredible support over the years.”
The BMAG show forms part of a season of exhibitions in a range of venues across the city celebrating Birmingham and the Black Country as the birthplace of Heavy Metal, with artworks from acclaimed artists including Alan Kane (UK), Ben Venom (US), Monster Chetwynd (UK), and Przemek Branas (Poland).
Kane’s 4 Bed Detached Home of Metal at The New Art Gallery Walsall, (until September 1) is a replica bedroom house recreating the bedrooms of some of Metal’s most devoted super fans, incorporating a ‘Metal Lounge’ which features new work from Una Hamilton Helle and Mark Titchner, as well as a range of contemporary artists including Jeremy Deller, Jim Lambie, Sarah Lucas and David Shrigley.
All This Mayhem at MAC (Midlands Art Centre) (until September 8) sees US artist Venom use traditional quilting and Heavy Metal aesthetics to create textile-based pieces which contrast the counterculture components of gangs, punk/metal music and the occult with the comforts of domesticity.
Alongside, Hand of Doom (also until September 1) a further collection of portraits shows Black Sabbath fans wearing the ubiquitous battle jacket.
Chetwynd’s Hell Mouth 3 at Eastside Projects (until July 27) is a homage to Penelope Spheeris’ three-part film series The Decline of Western Civilisation (1981 to 1998), which explored the LA music scene through punk and metal, via a typically large-scale sculptural and performative spectacle while Branas’ exhibition at Centrala (until August 11) sees the award-winning Polish artist present an archival and research-based display of letters, cassette tapes and zines, collected by Polish fans at a time when Heavy Metal music was banned in Poland.
Home of Metal: Black Sabbath – 50 years runs at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until September 29.
For more on Home of Metal, including exhibition, booking and event details see www.homeofmetal.com
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Birmingham, West Midlands
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) first opened in 1885. It is housed in a Grade II* listed city centre landmark building. There are over 40 galleries to explore that display art, applied art, social history, archaeology and ethnography. Galleries to Visit The art gallery is famous for its Pre-Raphaelite…