The V&A (the second coming)

July 7, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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It’s been a while since I last visited the V&A. Certainly a very long time since I had a proper visit. Today I took the opportunity to see the special (and soon to be over) Baroque exhibit, Gilbert Collection and the Theatre Collection.

Baroque: The exhibit discusses the first global style – Baroque and its influence over the course of several hundred years over performing arts, religion and daily life. An adult ticket costs £11 and you can get an audio guide. I didn’t and don’t feel that I’ve missed out. The exhibit was larger than I expected with a number of interesting and intricate pieces. I found the localisation of the style (such as in Asia) particularly fascinating. If you have an interest I art, design and globalisation this would be a worthwhile visit.

Gilbert: if you’ve not had enough opulence at the Baroqe exhibit then make your way past the jewellery and silver collections to the new Gilbert Collection. It features a collection that was built up over the last half of the 20th century and bequeathed to the V&A at Gilbert’s death in 2000. It features a number of fascinating and well made gold pieces, small boxes and micromosaics.

Theatre: London used to have a dedicated theatre museum however this has now closed. The collection was given to the V&A and they’ve presented a snap shot in the new rooms. An attendant advised that it is possible to see the larger collection via special appointment with the information desk. The rooms cover topics such as producing, casting, costumes, legal obstacles, advertising and the sets. It’s all fairly interesting (such as the bishops who’d attend the equivalent of glorified strip clubs) but you’ll be able gloss over some items while reading the descriptions of pieces that grab your attention. For the children they can play dress up in some costumes. Overall very well done condensing a large collection into an accessible overview.

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The Victoria and Albert Museum plus China Design Now exhibit

August 3, 2008 at 9:08 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Located in Kensington, adjacent to the Natural History and Science Museums is the Victoria and Albert Museum (or the V&A if you’re a local).

It has an enormous collection spanning time periods from across the globe. Walking through the exhibits will take a few hours – more if you plan to read in depth on the plentiful display boards.

Generally, the items on display are object d’art and re-creations of living environments with period pieces. Most are exquisitely crafted and it is interesting to see how these skills have developed and the quality of the craftsmens’ abilities.

Easily one of my favourite areas was the plaster cast section, where they have copies of some impressive statues and monuments (such as Trajan’s column). Granted it is all fake but still very cool. Another notable attraction is the Ardabil Carpet in the Middle Eastern section. It is the world’s oldest carpet and is only illuminated for 10 minutes every hour to help preserve its quality.

My main purpose in coming to the V&A was to see the China Design Now exhibit. I’d been meaning to see it for ages, procrastinated and then hurriedly made my way here on its penultimate day. The entry cost was reasonable and I also paid an additional fee for the audio guide. This was a mistake. I’m sure the content was fantastic but standing in front of a single panel for ten minutes is not my idea of engaging content. I quickly stopped using the guide and read the fairly informative display panels instead.

In large part the exhibit focused on the development of Chinese graphic design in print, clothing, music and emerging trends in architecture. I’m pleased that I went as it was fairly engaging. The youth branding areas of design were particularly fun, while their more mundane uses in areas such as school construction was interesting.

Other than special exhibits it is free, which is another huge bonus. Even the size isn’t too much of an issue however it was at times a challenge to navigate. I was frequently looking at my map and doubling back on myself as the wings don’t necessarily interconnect (not to mention all of the side galleries).

At the end of the day don’t let that put you off. The V&A is a fantastic museum that you should see. If museums aren’t your thing you might want to consider coming on one of the late night adults only openings (with DJ’s and bar).

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