Many great collections of historical art are housed in Neo-Classical buildings. Up in the midlands of England there is, however, one great collection that is housed in a purpose-built Art Deco art gallery. This is The Barber Institute in Birmingham, which was founded by Henry Barber, a successful property developer, with assistance from his heiress wife, Lady Barber. Mr Barber died in 1927 and the collection and the gallery were created by Lady Barber as a fitting and permanent memorial to her husband.
Lady Barber herself passed away in 1933, but by this time she had founded the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. This was bequeathed to the University of Birmingham, and its trustees worked assiduously to bring it into existence. The architect was Robert Atkinson and the completed Institute opened in 1939, complete with galleries and a concert hall. The exterior has a mixture of Art Deco curving and traditional angular corners, and is stone-faced on the lower floors and brick-faced above. There are some stone reliefs on the exterior.