Friday Photo by Karen Strunks

The Piccadilly Arcade is a shopping area based just off New Street and it is home┬álots of unique non-high-streety shops. I was having a stroll through the arcade and noticed for the first time, some beautiful murals on the ceiling. I’ve tried to do a bit of googling but couldn’t find any information about who is behind the artwork or how long it’s been there.

I took a few pics, but there are far more murals than I have captured. They really seem to tell a story, a kinda dark story too if you look at the sample pics. Are those people standing over a grave? Someone seems to be making a panicked phone call. The skies are dark and stormy…… It’s all very intriguing.

Next time you are walking along New Street, pop into the Piccadilly Arcade, have a look at the fabulous shops and don’t forget to look up!

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18 comments for “Friday Photo by Karen Strunks

  1. 15 May 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I enjoyed a good 10 minutes with my children looking up at these a couple of months ago. They especially liked the ones with the man parachuting down, that are further along the arcade.

    I didn't notice at the time, but the bottom pic you show seems to have a see/speak/hear no evil thing going on.

    The mood lightens significantly as you move along to the other end of the arcade.

    I'd say from the style of the telephone box, they must be over 10 / 15 years old

  2. 15 May 2009 at 3:39 pm

    According to Pevsner's Architectural Guide to Birmingham by Andy Foster, the paintings are by Paul Maxfield, and were part of the 1989 refurbishment.

  3. 15 May 2009 at 8:28 pm

    My tedious Brum fact is that Piccadilly Arcade used to be a cinema. Anyway, that aside, I seem to recall that there is some text information in the arcade itself – on the walls somewhere. The arcade was refurbed in the late 1980s but the artwork is from circa 2000.

  4. 17 May 2009 at 11:38 am

    Wow! Never seen these before, they look great. Musat make a special trip to Piccadilly Arcade next time I'm in town to look at these. Wonder what the story behind the pictutres is? It looks an exciting one!

  5. 20 May 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Having strolled down there the other day, I was reminded of the title (which is at the New Street end, along with the artist's name and the name of the developers): 'A Year In The Life of the Chinchillas'. Still none the wiser as to why though…

  6. Anonymous
    29 October 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Well! I was the one that commissioned the work on behalf of Hortons’ Estate the owners of the Arcade. There used to be a storyboard in the arcade explaining a bit about it. I have lost touch with Paul Maxfield and as I am now retired from Hortons I have little access to the file on the work.. we gave Paul the choice of the content and we agreed that we would not try to change it. he just had to agree not to do anything too controversial! The work is a contemporary snapshot of Birmingham life and was executed about 20 years ago. There is a clear theme of time as Autumn is at the New Street end and you progress through the seasons as you progress down the Arcade. The Title of “A life in the year of the chinchillas” is I think a reference to a series of engravings by Goya. That may explain the sombre feel.rnThere’s more….later!

  7. Anonymous
    29 October 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Well! I was the one that commissioned the work on behalf of Hortons’ Estate the owners of the Arcade. There used to be a storyboard in the arcade explaining a bit about it. I have lost touch with Paul Maxfield and as I am now retired from Hortons I have little access to the file on the work.. we gave Paul the choice of the content and we agreed that we would not try to change it. he just had to agree not to do anything too controversial! The work is a contemporary snapshot of Birmingham life and was executed about 20 years ago. There is a clear theme of time as Autumn is at the New Street end and you progress through the seasons as you progress down the Arcade. The Title of “A life in the year of the chinchillas” is I think a reference to a series of engravings by Goya. That may explain the sombre feel.rnThere’s more….later!

  8. Anonymous
    29 October 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Well! I was the one that commissioned the work on behalf of Hortons’ Estate the owners of the Arcade. There used to be a storyboard in the arcade explaining a bit about it. I have lost touch with Paul Maxfield and as I am now retired from Hortons I have little access to the file on the work.. we gave Paul the choice of the content and we agreed that we would not try to change it. he just had to agree not to do anything too controversial! The work is a contemporary snapshot of Birmingham life and was executed about 20 years ago. There is a clear theme of time as Autumn is at the New Street end and you progress through the seasons as you progress down the Arcade. The Title of “A life in the year of the chinchillas” is I think a reference to a series of engravings by Goya. That may explain the sombre feel.rnThere’s more….later!

  9. Anonymous
    29 October 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Well! I was the one that commissioned the work on behalf of Hortons’ Estate the owners of the Arcade. There used to be a storyboard in the arcade explaining a bit about it. I have lost touch with Paul Maxfield and as I am now retired from Hortons I have little access to the file on the work.. we gave Paul the choice of the content and we agreed that we would not try to change it. he just had to agree not to do anything too controversial! The work is a contemporary snapshot of Birmingham life and was executed about 20 years ago. There is a clear theme of time as Autumn is at the New Street end and you progress through the seasons as you progress down the Arcade. The Title of “A life in the year of the chinchillas” is I think a reference to a series of engravings by Goya. That may explain the sombre feel.rnThere’s more….later!

  10. Anonymous
    29 October 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Well! I was the one that commissioned the work on behalf of Hortons’ Estate the owners of the Arcade. There used to be a storyboard in the arcade explaining a bit about it. I have lost touch with Paul Maxfield and as I am now retired from Hortons I have little access to the file on the work.. we gave Paul the choice of the content and we agreed that we would not try to change it. he just had to agree not to do anything too controversial! The work is a contemporary snapshot of Birmingham life and was executed about 20 years ago. There is a clear theme of time as Autumn is at the New Street end and you progress through the seasons as you progress down the Arcade. The Title of “A life in the year of the chinchillas” is I think a reference to a series of engravings by Goya. That may explain the sombre feel.rnThere’s more….later!

  11. Anonymous
    29 October 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Just Googled the Chinchillas and got this:rnThe Chinchillas (Caprichos 50, D. 86, H. 84). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, “He who hears nothing, knows nothing, and does nothing belongs to the numerous family of the Chinchillas, which has always been good for nothing.” Contemporary references identify the Chinchilas as nobles: “Those idiots who pride themselves on their nobility, let themselves go to laziness and superstition. They close off their understanding with padlocks while they are grossly fed by ignorance.” This plate offers a different perspective on the folly of geneological pride illustrated in plate 39. Instead of the earlier plate’s self-satisfied and well-dressed ass, this one depicts the nobility as victims of their own pride living like madmen in their own prisons of ignorance, clearly unfit to play any role in the nation.rnSo – “He who hears nothing knows nothing” could be re-written as “He who sees nothing knows nothing” and therfore you need to see the images in the murals to know about Birmingham’s contemporary history. viz the red cross through the ambulance is a reference to the strike at that time which resulted in un-neccessary deaths…. The chicilas could be refering to the Horton family! I do not think they could, however, be regarded as lazyrnRob

  12. Anonymous
    29 October 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Just Googled the Chinchillas and got this:rnThe Chinchillas (Caprichos 50, D. 86, H. 84). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, “He who hears nothing, knows nothing, and does nothing belongs to the numerous family of the Chinchillas, which has always been good for nothing.” Contemporary references identify the Chinchilas as nobles: “Those idiots who pride themselves on their nobility, let themselves go to laziness and superstition. They close off their understanding with padlocks while they are grossly fed by ignorance.” This plate offers a different perspective on the folly of geneological pride illustrated in plate 39. Instead of the earlier plate’s self-satisfied and well-dressed ass, this one depicts the nobility as victims of their own pride living like madmen in their own prisons of ignorance, clearly unfit to play any role in the nation.rnSo – “He who hears nothing knows nothing” could be re-written as “He who sees nothing knows nothing” and therfore you need to see the images in the murals to know about Birmingham’s contemporary history. viz the red cross through the ambulance is a reference to the strike at that time which resulted in un-neccessary deaths…. The chicilas could be refering to the Horton family! I do not think they could, however, be regarded as lazyrnRob

  13. Anonymous
    29 October 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Just Googled the Chinchillas and got this:rnThe Chinchillas (Caprichos 50, D. 86, H. 84). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, “He who hears nothing, knows nothing, and does nothing belongs to the numerous family of the Chinchillas, which has always been good for nothing.” Contemporary references identify the Chinchilas as nobles: “Those idiots who pride themselves on their nobility, let themselves go to laziness and superstition. They close off their understanding with padlocks while they are grossly fed by ignorance.” This plate offers a different perspective on the folly of geneological pride illustrated in plate 39. Instead of the earlier plate’s self-satisfied and well-dressed ass, this one depicts the nobility as victims of their own pride living like madmen in their own prisons of ignorance, clearly unfit to play any role in the nation.rnSo – “He who hears nothing knows nothing” could be re-written as “He who sees nothing knows nothing” and therfore you need to see the images in the murals to know about Birmingham’s contemporary history. viz the red cross through the ambulance is a reference to the strike at that time which resulted in un-neccessary deaths…. The chicilas could be refering to the Horton family! I do not think they could, however, be regarded as lazyrnRob

  14. Anonymous
    29 October 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Just Googled the Chinchillas and got this:rnThe Chinchillas (Caprichos 50, D. 86, H. 84). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, “He who hears nothing, knows nothing, and does nothing belongs to the numerous family of the Chinchillas, which has always been good for nothing.” Contemporary references identify the Chinchilas as nobles: “Those idiots who pride themselves on their nobility, let themselves go to laziness and superstition. They close off their understanding with padlocks while they are grossly fed by ignorance.” This plate offers a different perspective on the folly of geneological pride illustrated in plate 39. Instead of the earlier plate’s self-satisfied and well-dressed ass, this one depicts the nobility as victims of their own pride living like madmen in their own prisons of ignorance, clearly unfit to play any role in the nation.rnSo – “He who hears nothing knows nothing” could be re-written as “He who sees nothing knows nothing” and therfore you need to see the images in the murals to know about Birmingham’s contemporary history. viz the red cross through the ambulance is a reference to the strike at that time which resulted in un-neccessary deaths…. The chicilas could be refering to the Horton family! I do not think they could, however, be regarded as lazyrnRob

  15. Anonymous
    29 October 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Just Googled the Chinchillas and got this:rnThe Chinchillas (Caprichos 50, D. 86, H. 84). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, “He who hears nothing, knows nothing, and does nothing belongs to the numerous family of the Chinchillas, which has always been good for nothing.” Contemporary references identify the Chinchilas as nobles: “Those idiots who pride themselves on their nobility, let themselves go to laziness and superstition. They close off their understanding with padlocks while they are grossly fed by ignorance.” This plate offers a different perspective on the folly of geneological pride illustrated in plate 39. Instead of the earlier plate’s self-satisfied and well-dressed ass, this one depicts the nobility as victims of their own pride living like madmen in their own prisons of ignorance, clearly unfit to play any role in the nation.rnSo – “He who hears nothing knows nothing” could be re-written as “He who sees nothing knows nothing” and therfore you need to see the images in the murals to know about Birmingham’s contemporary history. viz the red cross through the ambulance is a reference to the strike at that time which resulted in un-neccessary deaths…. The chicilas could be refering to the Horton family! I do not think they could, however, be regarded as lazyrnRob

  16. rblyth
    29 October 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Well! I was the one that commissioned the work on behalf of Hortons' Estate the owners of the Arcade. There used to be a storyboard in the arcade explaining a bit about it. I have lost touch with Paul Maxfield and as I am now retired from Hortons I have little access to the file on the work.. we gave Paul the choice of the content and we agreed that we would not try to change it. he just had to agree not to do anything too controversial! The work is a contemporary snapshot of Birmingham life and was executed about 20 years ago. There is a clear theme of time as Autumn is at the New Street end and you progress through the seasons as you progress down the Arcade. The Title of “A life in the year of the chinchillas” is I think a reference to a series of engravings by Goya. That may explain the sombre feel.
    There's more….later!

  17. rblyth
    29 October 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Just Googled the Chinchillas and got this:
    The Chinchillas (Caprichos 50, D. 86, H. 84). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, “He who hears nothing, knows nothing, and does nothing belongs to the numerous family of the Chinchillas, which has always been good for nothing.” Contemporary references identify the Chinchilas as nobles: “Those idiots who pride themselves on their nobility, let themselves go to laziness and superstition. They close off their understanding with padlocks while they are grossly fed by ignorance.” This plate offers a different perspective on the folly of geneological pride illustrated in plate 39. Instead of the earlier plate's self-satisfied and well-dressed ass, this one depicts the nobility as victims of their own pride living like madmen in their own prisons of ignorance, clearly unfit to play any role in the nation.
    So – “He who hears nothing knows nothing” could be re-written as “He who sees nothing knows nothing” and therfore you need to see the images in the murals to know about Birmingham's contemporary history. viz the red cross through the ambulance is a reference to the strike at that time which resulted in un-neccessary deaths…. The chicilas could be refering to the Horton family! I do not think they could, however, be regarded as lazy
    Rob

  18. Withpalmhr2
    14 February 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Reminscent of the work of Kit Williams. Equally enigmatic & alegorical.

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