Wall Have Ears: 400 Years of Change

An Arts Council Collection National Partners Exhibition

Celebrating its 400th anniversary, Aston Hall is a magnificent Jacobean mansion located in a public park in the ward of Aston, a diverse local community in inner-city Birmingham. The Hall was built between 1618 and 1635 for Sir Thomas Holte and was subsequently leased in the 19th century by James Watt Jr, son of the engineer James Watt. It is furnished with the city’s collection of fine and decorative art – furniture, textiles, ceramics, metalwork and portraits, dating predominantly from the 17th century.

Inspired by this great house and its location, ‘Walls Have Ears: 400 Years of Change’ is an exhibition of contemporary portraiture and representations of history, culture, class and race, featuring artists from the Arts Council Collection, and Birmingham’s collection. The past 400 years have seen many changes in the social, demographic and economic landscape that surrounds the Hall. Reflecting these changes, the walls of the Hall come alive to interweave the past and the present. Throughout the Hall, paintings, tapestry, photographs, film, sculpture and ceramics offer contemporary observations of people from around the world.

Artists include Richard Billingham, Faisal Abdu’Allah and Kofi Allen, Vanley Burke, Lisa Cheung, Sylvester Jacobs, Mawuena Kattah, Ryan Mosley, Eugene Palmer, Paul Rooney, Zineb Sedira, Donald Rodney, Stephen Earl Rogers, Emma Rushton, Barbara Walker, Richard Wilson and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

A comprehensive learning programme of onsite and outreach activities accompanies this exhibition.

Aston Hall exhibition page



The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.