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I've always loved this museum since I was a child.
This is a museum of the people and for the people. It covers decorative arts from antiquity to present day. This means there are rooms full of ceramics, glass, sculpture, tapestries, fabric, fashion, design, furniture and more.
As a child I loved a giant bed which could sleep up to 7 people!
Now I love the fashion galleries and the newly opened theatre gallery which is full of costumes, set design, posters and more telling a theatrical history of London.
The V&A have regular exhibitons of photography, fashion, specific movements in art and more. In recent years I've see Diane Arbus, Lee Miller, Kylie's costumes, Baroque exhibition, Modernism, Sportswear & fashion and an amazing exhibition on the 20th century fashion houses like Chanel, Schiparelli, Balanciaga etc.
At present they have an exhibition on about the Maharajahs of India and coming in 2010 is a big quilts exhibition that I'm looking forward to.
The building itself is amazing, from the glass chandeliers designed by Chihuly in the entrance foyer to the wood panelling, mosaic floors and intricate tiling that you find all over the building.
If you are looking to escape the hurly burly, there are lots of lesser visited galleries.
The information above is incorrect, the V&A is free to enter although there is an admission charge for the temporary exhibitions which ranges form £5 - £12 depending on the size.
They have a wide-ranging education programme so plenty for children to do as well as interesting talks and events surrounding the exhibitions.
I think this is a great place to visit as there is so much to see - if you get bored of ceramics there will be an equally interesting room just around the corner. I think this is part of the appeal for children as well - you can see everyday objects (glass, chair, bed etc) but in an amazing context or design.
There is a really lovely cafe with the most fabulous tiles and huge glass chandeliers. They sell a full range of hot meals, soup, sandwiches, salads and cakes.
There is also a courtyard area which is perfect for chilling out in on sunny days and has a wonderful water feature which children (and big kids) like to paddle in.
Finally, if you are looking to spend then the shop is amazing. They have recently created a seperate bookshop which is an excellent resource with a huge range of arts books. The shop sells wide variety of gifts, toys, clothes, jewellery and more and is perfect for an original Christmas or birthday gift.
The Victorian age was probably the golden age of museum building. They gathered vast collections and put them in splendid buildings for the good of the public so their lives would be enriched by the knowledge they gained from these institutions. (It was also a way for the great unwashed to spend their spare time more effectively and keep them out of the pub). One of the greatest of these is the Victoria and Albert Museum (fondly known as the V &A) which is the national museum for the decorative and applied arts. It is a place I have always quite fancied visiting but have only been in London visiting Duskman and it is not a place I think he would enjoy that much. Now that we actually live in London I thought I would spend near enough a day just wandering round this vast museum and appreciating the beautiful objects on display.
The V & A was founded by Prince Albert after the Great Exhibition of 1851. He felt that there was a lack of understanding about design by the manufacturers of the time. The aim was (and still is) to collect all that is good and tasteful in the decorative arts. Apparently there was also supposed to be a museum dedicated to all that was bad in design but this did not succeed as the manufacturers vetoed this.
The museum is located in South Kensington (southwest London) on Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road near the Royal Albert Hall, Science Museum and Natural History Museum. It is easy to find. You just get the Piccadilly, Circle or District line to South Kensington tube station. There is a subway that connects the station with the museums and the entrance to the V and A is clearly marked. There was no chance of getting lost. The same can not be said for navigating the museum.This is because the museum is huge. It is on six floors and covers anything that can be manufactured, carved or decorated such as textiles, metal work, sculpture and painting. The exhibits come from all over the world and span the centuries from the Middle Ages to contemporary pieces. It has been described, as a warehouse for all that is beautiful! There is a free map (well they suggest a £1 donation) and gallery plans dispersed intermittently. All galleries are numbered. However I still found myself getting lost. The museum runs free guided tours throughout the day and I would highly recommend them. My guide was a very well spoken lady who was friendly, willing to answer questions (even if she did not know all the answers), was informative without being dry. The tour gave me a good understanding of the early history of the museum and also pointed out some highlights in the collection.
After taking my tour I decided to go to level five and work my way down (level six is not open to the public). This took me four and a half-hours and I skipped a few galleries especially on floor 1 and 0 as I had museum fatigue.
The galleries I particularly enjoyed and spent a lot of time in were the British galleries from 1600 to 1900. I liked these displays as most of the things were in context with themes such as eating and drinking, birth, marriage and death rather than just shelves and shelves of one thing. I found the silver, glass and ironwork galleries were less successful because of this. There are only so many ornate iron railings a girl can take.
I always enjoy the costume galleries. Fashion and its ludicrousness always fascinated me as people are trying to accentuate and distort their natural shape whether it be a bustle, a corset or a Wonder Bra. I almost have to laugh at the eighteenth century dresses with the hoops that make the skirt twice as wide at the sides. I was slightly perplexed when looking at the display of evening dresses as there seemed to be an eighteenth century and nineteenth century dress after a modern one when they normally go in chronological order. On further inspection I found that they were modern dresses (one designed by Vivienne Westward) influenced by older dresses. I just thought why.
Another highlight for me was one of the tapestries galleries. Tapestries are not usually my thing but I found the Hardwick Hunt tapestries fascinating. These tapestries from Hardwich hall in Derbyshire date from the 15th century and depict hunting scenes. I loved them because they are massive with so much detain in them from the ermine on the robes to the faces. I especially loved a beautifully embroidered horse. I felt I could sit and look at them for hours and still not take in everything which is happening in them.
The final area that really interested me is the Cast Court. This is made up of plaster of Paris copies of sculptures from Roman pillars to Michelangelo's David. It felt very Victorian as they were in no particular order and a bit higgledy-piggledy. The reason why they existed my guide told me was so that 19th century art students could draw works of sculpture without having to travel or relying on an illustration from a book.
I skipped past the paintings. The museum is supposed to have one of the biggest collections of Constable but I found the way the paintings were arranged to be inaccessible to me. It was a very Victorian, arrangement, all jumbled up three paintings high. I prefer a linear layout as I can see the paintings at the top. I also prefer things to be arranged thematically as it makes more sense to me. I did spend a little bit more time on the miniatures as I find the detail on such small paintings incredible.
The Museum won some funding due to being the European Museum of the year recently, so some galleries were closed. I realised I did not see any jewellery but just thought I had somehow missed it (however the jewellery galleries are closed until 2008).
The interpretation used a mix of methods but relied quite heavily on interpretation panels and labels. These suit the museum as they provide the most information when you have such a vast collection. I sometimes find these problematic due to my eyesight especially if they are at ground level or quite far back in the case. However the V and A do cater for visually impaired visitors like me by providing large print books of the interpretation labels. When items were grouped thematically I found the larger interpretation panels very informative. They also used more modern methods to good effect. I liked the touch screen audiovisuals that showed how objects were crafted.
I am not sure the V and A is one to drag children round for hours on end. However there were a number of interactives for the kids (and big kids inside us). There was a Clore discovery area (the foundation that are also responsible for the wonderful interactive area in Manchester Art gallery) in the British Galleries. There were some genius things like assembling a chair as well as the more common brass rubbings and dress up boxes. I could not resist trying on a replica corset and crinoline as I always thought they looked elegant and wanted to know what it felt like wearing that much underwear. It took me two seconds of wearing them to decide I am glad to be a modern girl, as it was not easy to walk or sit in at all.
The hands on exhibits catered for visually impaired people as well as children. There were bits of sculpture and different materials to feel and in these areas there were Braille labels. Like most museums the V and A is making their collections accessible to everyone.
I did appreciate the little touches like magnifying glass being supplied by the miniatures so I could look at them in greater detail. I also appreciated the folding stools and plenty of places to sit and rest. When your feet are really aching or if you want to just sit and gaze at the room (I found myself often gazing at the ornately decorated ceilings). The museum is accessible for disabled people with a ramp entrance and lifts to all floors.
The V and A is not a museum you can nip in for 15 minutes unless you have a particular gallery in mind. I felt I could literally spend days in there and still not see everything. I must have walked at least two or three miles so my advice is take a comfortable pair of shows.
The best thing about the V and A is that it is free although a donation of £3 is suggested. That is great value for a day's entertainment. The only charge is for the special exhibitions. The current one on at the moment is about Minimalism. It's not really a subject I am interested in and it was £9 to go in. Perhaps if it was a couple of quid I might have thought about it.
A museum visit is not complete without a visit to the shop. Some can be a bit tacky but the V and A's one has recently been refurbished and is very classy. It was large, bright and tastefully arranged. There did not seem to be too much tat at all. There was a nice range of books, cards and postcards. It also had some lovely scarves and jewellery. A lot of the stuff was a bit on the expensive side (I liked the look of some of the scarves and wraps but they were about £50) but it did seem excellent quality.
Near the end of my visit I was pretty weary so I decided to pop into the café. I decided not to have food as the pre-packed sandwiches were £3 up and made to order deli ones even more. It did have a nice range of smoothies, juices and iced teas that were not that expensive. They are £2.25 so are comparably priced to a juice bar or Starbucks). I selected the interesting sounding rose iced tea with fresh apple and sunflower. I could not taste sunflower but it was lovely and refreshing. For those who bring their own food there is a lovely courtyard garden (the Pirelli Gardens) with beautiful fountains. This would be ideal for a summer's picnic.
I really enjoyed my wander around the Victoria and Albert. I certainly will go back. I want to see the galleries that I missed and skimmed over especially the Chinese ones. I saw some of the exhibits on my guided tour and the Imperial robes and thrones really brought to life for me objects described in books that I have read such as Empress Orchid. I would also like to see more of the exterior as I entered and exited by tunnel. There is so much to see at the V and A that repeated visits seem to be a must.
Opening hours 10:00 - 17:45 except Wednesday when it is open until 22:00.
Commentary on an exhibition of original art at the V&A Museum, Print Gallery level 2, Henry Cole Wing from 31 May - 2 September, 2001. Regular readers of my ops from the Books and Magazines section of dooyoo will know by now that I do love my comic art. I don’t just mean I like reading comics, I mean I love comic art. There has always been a bit of me that’s been a little dismissive of the general consensus of opinion that says that comics are for kids and comic art isn’t real art. For me comic art contains a language and mechanics not found in any other art form and is considered as juvenile simply because of the general content rather than its function. Unlike conventional art forms, with comics the art is a means to an end (ie; it is telling a story) and not an end in itself. To consider it otherwise is a shortsighted view and one that is being partially corrected by a new exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Art Droids>2000AD is a collection of original artwork from the early days of Britain’s most successful comic, 2000AD. Unfortunately, it seems American and European collectors who take this art more seriously than us Brits have bought up most of the original works and so this collection is as such a small one. It is drawn from the collection of a British comic fan, Rufus Dayglo, a professional animator – kudos to him for allowing fans like me the chance to see original work. The exhibition includes work by long-time comic art stalwarts, Carlos Ezquerra, Mike McMahon, Dave Gibbons, Brendan McCarthy, Brett Ewins, Ron Smith, John Hicklenton and Massimo Bellardinelli. I won’t go into detail about why I believe comics should be seen as a legitimate art form – you can read some of my past ops for that (hint, hint) but even for visitors who may not be comic fans, there are things to appreciate here. For example, one display case shows the creative impact that 2000AD an
d its writers and artists have had on the American marketplace. Many of the top creators in America now are British, many of them having worked or are working on the American icons like Batman and Superman. This goes back to the eighties when British creators seemed to be flooding the American market and doing everything – for a long time the US didn’t know what had hit them. As such the market has become more irreverent and energetic than ever before. It is hard to imagine the days before 2000AD when the idea of even one British creator working in America would have seemed ludicrous. The impact of the British on international popular art should not be underestimated. As well as a sketchpad of work by artist Mike McMahon that you can look through (and trust me, art doesn’t get more irreverent than this – it’s like Picasso gone punk), there are about thirty to forty pieces of original art, colour and black and white to pore over. The Total War piece by Dave Gibbons stands as my favourite in the collection – the art is pristine, not a line out of place and packed with detail and things going on. And if you just want to read, well there’s a 16 page (9 prints) Judge Dredd story in painted colour for you running in sequence along the wall. There’s also a very good catalogue you can pick up for nothing – it’s basically four A3 sheets of paper but packed with information, history, sketches and a specially commissioned (for the V&A) b/w print by Mike McMahon that rocks – if you go, don’t forget to pick one up. For a chance to see original British comic art at its best, you should go and see the Art Droids>2000AD exhibition in the Henry Cole Wing of the V&A (just above the restaurant if you’re hungry). I could go on forever about all the other art collections housed in the V&A but suffice to say there should be something there to cater for most tastes. Admission is £5 fo
r the whole museum and an extra £4 for the Victoriana exhibition that’s currently being held there. And if you are unsure about anything, or just need help finding your way around (it is huge), then ask the staff who are very polite and helpful. The nearest underground station is South Kensington. The V&A is a very quick walk from there, five minutes at most, on Cromwell Road. Three buses, the C1, 14 and 74 all stop right outside. If you want to make a day of it, then the Science Museum and Natural History Museum (the one with the dinosaurs) are right next door. And if you are a glutton for gift shops, take lots of money – just don’t expect any comics – an exhibition is one thing but we wouldn’t want to lower the tone of the gift shop, would we?
The world’s foremost museum of decorative arts, the stunning V&A is appropriately housed in Aston Webb’s immense, imposing 1890 building. With almost 150 galleries to explore, it’s essential to concentrate on specific areas of interest within the Art & Design galleries (arranged thematically) and the Materials & Techniques galleries (by type of material). Among the highlights are the wonderful Japanese Gallery, the equally fine collection of Indian arts (the largest outside India), the popular Jewellery and Dress collections and the Canon Photography Gallery (home of the National Collection of the Art of Photography). There’s a great café/restaurant, too.
Going into the V&A is like suddenly finding yourself in a fantasy world. It is my favourite museum in London simply because of the sheer lunacy of the place! Going into the V&A is like being invited into the house of an eccentric collector who hasn't quite got around to sorting out his finds. My favourite areas of the museum are the costume section which features clothes from almost every era. The jewellery collection which is hidden in an inner room guarded by a security guard. The sculpture room which features copies of famous sculptures, stand next to the statue of David and feel extremely small indeed! Throw away the map you are given when you walk through the door. The most enjoyable thing about the V&A is to get lost in it. You'll find yourself in rooms of ironwork or textiles and you'll suddenly see the beauty of something you've never even looked closely at before.
This huge monster of the museum will be known, at least by name, to most Londoners and tourists alike. However being the largest museum of decorative art in the world is a doubtful recommendation and it?s maze-like interior is very effective in leading the bewildered visitor in all the wrong directions, eventually spitting him out after a confused tour of some medieval tapestries and samples of Islamic art. Nevertheless, if you know the right nooks and turns, this mammoth of a museum can provide a few unexpected hours of fun. Constructed clumsily out of four different buildings, its designers conveniently forgot to provide facilities for its staff , with the predictable result of curators putting their tables in corridors or sorting silverware under staircases. These strange arrangements have put such distance between the museum?s departments that most of the stuff saw each over only on Christmas parties. As a result you pass through galleries so vastly different from each over that you can hardly believe you are still in the same museum? and this is the V&A?s biggest charm. Since money is pouring in for refurbishment, you better hurry up to catch the forgotten treasures before they become too trendy to be really interesting. First a short tour of the must-see galleries: Jewellery? situated in a submarine-shaped vault, the intoxicating glimmer of gold and precious stones will put its spell even on the major tinker hater. Despite the uninspired display, its sheer size and the dazzling choice of designs and materials used, makes it fascinating visit by itself. For the seekers of the unusual, keep an eye for the amazing steel bracelets and necklaces, which at some point in the 19th cent. were worth their weight in gold. Glass ? this recently refurbished gallery was designed as open storage, which means that most of the museum glass collection is actually on display (compared to 5 to ~40 % in other galleries). The result is a
shimmering beauty of transparent and colourful glass, especially if you will trouble yourself up the glass staircase to the upper gallery. There the reserve collection is crammed in all its glory in floor to ceiling cabinets, proving once again that sheer volume of objects on display can be much more fascinating than the best of the latest funky displays. Fashion ? Walking through this dimly lit maze of historical costumes makes you wish you were born in a different era (or maybe bless your luck that you didn?t? ) but either way you realise that absolutely nothing new was passed the minds of the fashion designers in the last 40 years. Silver ? this amazing gallery recently restored to its tiled 19th cent. look, is worth a visit at least for the interior: glazed columns with colourful floral designs, frescoes and carvings everywhere. If you prefer the trendy ?empty room? look it will probably make you nauseous, for everyone else it?s awesome. And now for something different: Forgeries ? If you turn right in the long corridor behind the tickets sales and walk to its far end (that is up to the bored guard standing near a narrow flight of stairs) you?ll find on your left one of the least known and most interesting galleries of the V & A. This narrow corridor holds in it?s old-fashioned wooden showcases, amazing stories of craftiness and deceit. Make a point to read the small laconic labels revealing some of the most famous and crafty forgeries in history (look out for the dagger with the royal history). On both sides of this corridor are the forgotten casts? galleries. Once the highlight of the 19th cent. museums, they became obsolete, once international travel became widely available. It?s still worth a look, for the sheer size of them and the chance to have a closer look at some of the most famous monuments in Europe (it will also save you hours of obligatory sight seeing in many capitals of Europe?) Music Instruments ? a delightful
little display of historical musical instruments above the fashion gallery (up the staircase in the middle). Usually totally deserted which is a major part of its charm. Iron galleries ? (left from the tickets sales and up the stairs at the end) another forgotten corner, which usually will be totally at your disposal (a good place for some snogging or finishing your sandwiches then the guard is not around). It also has some unexpected gems such as intricate iron gates and beautiful metal boxes. Europe and America 1800-1890 gallery ? this small gallery with an unpromising name, on the right side of the entrance, has very few visitors and probably the best pieces of Art Nouveau in UK. And now for the last piece of advice. If you plan to visit the British Museum as well, you might as well skip the Asian and medieval galleries, since they are very similar in both places. Concentrate on the stuff mentioned above instead!! PS The entrance is free after 16:30 and on all times if you are a student or under 18. It?s also open on Wednesday evening from 18:30 to 22:00 during the summer and if you go before middle of July you still have a chance to see the grandiose Art Nouveau exhibition.