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Locks, casts and forgeries ? the hidden treasures of V& A
Victoria & Albert (London)
Member Name: vikil
Victoria & Albert (London)
Date: 27/06/00, updated on 27/06/00 (76 review reads)
Advantages: Holds some of the most beautiful and interesting objects d'art in London.
Disadvantages: Getting lost on every turn
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.
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