Moves to create an iconic artwork to mark the centenary of Birmingham Civic Society have taken a major step forward following the creation of a charitable trust which will oversee fundraising for the project.
The establishment of the Birmingham Big Art Foundation on March 18 means the Birmingham Big Art Project has also been able to announce its commissioning agent for the scheme.
That role will be undertaken by Birmingham art gallery Eastside Projects, under the supervision of its CEO Gavin Wade.
The Birmingham Big Art Project is a Birmingham Civic Society initiative, supported by Birmingham City Council, and has a target of raising a minimum of £2 million for a permanent artwork in the city.
The overall aim is to put the city on the international art map, with the new artwork becoming a tourist attraction in its own right.
While the scheme is still in its early stages, the artwork will be unveiled in 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of the civic society.
Highlighting the kind of artwork he hopes will be created, chairman of the Birmingham Big Art Project Glyn Pitchford pointed to famous examples of public art as an inspiration, including Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North in Gateshead and Cloud Gate in Chicago.
“We may decide to go for a colossus like the Angel of the North, which is a great advertisement for the North East,” he said.
“Another example is Chicago’s Cloud Gate, otherwise known as the Bean and designed by Anish Kapoor.
“It has become the third most photographed sculpture in the world.
“However, the artwork could be small, like the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen which still defines the city.
“Our primary objective is to identify a though-provoking, innovative and identifiable public work of art which has to make a statement about Birmingham, attracting tourism and creating economic benefit.”
A steering group was formed earlier this year and the project has now taken its second step on the journey, which will culminate in a competition to select an artist to undertake it.
Mr Pitchford, said: “We have taken quite a few strides forward. First of all it is now official – we have got Charity Commission recognition. The Birmingham Big Art Foundation is now registered as a charitable trust.
“This is a five-year plan but this represents an important step forward.”
The chairman of the foundation will be Mike Ward, senior partner of law firm Gateley, while Mr Pitchford continues as chairman of the Birmingham Big Art Project.
He added: “We can now get the ball rolling with a bit more fundraising. The establishment of the trust also meant we could appoint a commissioning agent in the shape of Eastside Projects, the public art gallery that exists in Digbeth.
“The steering group felt we should appoint an organisation rather than an individual.”
Explaining the gallery’s role as commission agent, Mr Pitchford said: “Eastside Projects will now be able to be let loose with this project. They will produce a brief for the competition that will run, draw up a timetable and over a period of time identify available artists.”
He added that the search for an artist would span the globe, though local artists would also be considered.
“They will identify artists at a local, national and international level,” he said. “Then we will put together a selection panel, the steering group together with professionals from the art world.”
The next meeting of the Big Art Project steering group will take place in May, when Mr Pitchford said potential sites would be considered.
Members of the city council’s senior planning team will be in attendance, though the decision on a potential site is likely to take place in September, when the selection panel would also be announced.
It is hoped the competition will start in May or June 2015, running for the remainder of that year, with a shortlist announced in January 2016.
Mr Pitchford said another recent boost was a decision by the city council to incorporate the scheme within its public strategy, something which could assist with fundraising, though he admitted raising the cash required remained the biggest challenge.
“The big test will be whether we can persuade benefactors and sponsors to come on board,” he said. “That will be out biggest challenge – and I have said that from day one.
“But as the economy improves and we can show we are adding to the cultural offering of Birmingham I’m sure people will come out and support us when the time is right.”