New art exhibition explores strange history of dentistry and its links to Birmingham Jewellery Quarter

In 'The Most Profound Mystery', the artist references the true use of fans in the fashions of the past – to hide bad teeth and mask bad breath.

An exhibition will open at a gallery at Birmingham Dental Hospital and the University of Birmingham School of Dentistry investigating the link between teeth and the city’s historic Jewellery Quarter.

Created by internationally renowned Artist Anna Dumitriu in collaboration with Dr Melissa Grant, a senior lecturer in biological sciences at the University of Birmingham’s School of Dentistry, the exhibition opens on October 4th.

Being held at BDH Open Wide Gallery, which is in the foyer of the joint site of Birmingham Dental Hospital and the University of Birmingham School of Dentistry, the exhibition will run until January 17th 2020 and will be open during Birmingham Dental Hospital opening hours.

The exhibition investigates the links between Birmingham Dental Hospital and the city’s Jewellery Quarter, as well as the strange histories and emerging futures of dentistry, from teeth worms, false teeth and the development of anaesthetics to 3D printing and the DNA of dental microbes.

Artist Anna Dumitriu has created the new exhibition to explore the cultural and psychological impact of dentistry inspired by Birmingham Dental Hospital’s existing collection of historic artefacts.

Anna said: “When I first began this project I had no idea just how truly fascinating and, at times, downright bizarre the history of dentistry was, let alone its central importance to the development of medical science and surgery or how closely linked the whole field is to jewellery-making.

“It has been amazing to work with researchers from across Birmingham Dental Hospital and the University of Birmingham to develop the project, from medical historians and microbiologists to surgeons and false teeth makers. 

“I hope audiences will enjoy the artworks and the stories behind them as much as I have making the artwork.”

Dr Melissa Grant, of the University of Birmingham’s School of Dentistry and curator of the collection, added: “Working with Anna on this project has brought alive the history of dentistry and put it in the context of our contemporary research at the School of Dentistry and Birmingham Dental Hospital.

“Our historical collection has roots in the 1700s and holds important examples of the practices and tools spanning the years from then until now.

“Anna has worked in our laboratories, examined the historical collection, and had access to the clinicians and researchers to get under the skin of the department and make artworks deeply embedded in history and contemporary dentistry.”

The Birmingham Dental Hospital was founded in 1858, predating both the NHS, which was founded in 1948, and the University of Birmingham which was founded in 1900.

It provided dental education and service, and though it moved often, it was always close to the Jewellery Quarter until in 2016 when it relocated to Edgbaston.

Birmingham, and its Jewellery Quarter in particular, has been known as a pioneer of major technological advancements since the industrial revolution.

Workers in the Jewellery Quarter were known, not only for their jewellery skills, but also for making pens and whistles. Their expertise adjacent to the dental hospital contributed to the development of tools and materials for the dental industry.

Artworks in the exhibition incorporates a range of media including 3D printed silver, DNA, sterilised bacteria, altered found artefacts and textiles.

This exhibition marks the tenth exhibition at the BDH Open Wide gallery and has been supported by Arts Council England.

An open event with refreshments will be held at 5pm on October 3rd, when visitors will also be able to meet the artist and curator.

On November 20th, there will also be free drop in ‘Teeth Marks’ workshop exploring the techniques used in the exhibition and making your own artwork with Anna Dumitriu and Dr Melissa Grant at Birmingham Dental Hospital from 12.30pm – 4.30pm.

At the University of Birmingham’s Barber Institute of Fine Arts on November 20th Anna will discuss her artistic practice and the Teeth Marks project, which will be followed by a discussion with Dr Grant with audience questions. This event is in collaboration with the Barber Association.

Ends

For more information please contact Emma McKinney, Communications Manager (Health Sciences), University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0) 121 414 6681, or contact the press office on +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • Email artist Anna Dumitriu for an interview. 
  • Images should be credited to Anna Dumitriu.
  • Anna Dumitriu is a British artist whose work fuses craft, technology and bioscience to weave complex narratives around our relationship to infectious disease and its cultural and personal implications. She works hands-on with the tools and techniques of microbiology and synthetic biology to create intricate artworks that reveal strange histories and emerging futures. Her obsessions with the history and treatment of infectious diseases, medical ethics, antibiotics and genetics speak urgently to the concerns of wide audiences and create a visceral and emotionally affecting experience. She holds visiting research fellowships at the University of Hertfordshire, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and Waag Society. She is artist-in-residence with Modernising Medical Microbiology at the University of Oxford, and with the National Collection of Type Cultures at Public Health England. Her extensive exhibition profile includes The Picasso Museum, ZKM, Ars Electronica Festival, BOZAR, The 6th Guangzhou Triennial, Philadelphia Science Center, The Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, LABoral, Art Laboratory Berlin, The History of Science Museum Oxford, Furtherfield, HeK Basel, and Eden Project. Dumitriu was the 2018 President of the Science and the Arts section of the British Science Association. 
  • BDH Open Wide is a micro-sized gallery in the foyer of the Birmingham Dental Hospital and School of Dentistry, University of Birmingham. It engages visitors, patients, staff and students of the hospital with the research and historical collections housed within its walls. The exhibition space has been running since 2017 and Teeth Marks sees the return of Anna Dumitriu as the tenth exhibition in the space from our inaugural exhibition Microbe Mouth. The space is curated by Dr Melissa Grant an active scientific researcher with an interest in art-science collaborations and public engagement.