The Victoria and Albert Museum dates back to 1837. How fortunate are we that the grand building still stands today, housing some of the most exquisite and interesting art from around the world AND it remains FREE to the public (other than one-of exhibitions) as was the original intention for all to enjoy.
The V and A as it's fondly called, was a government initiative, with the prime goal of improving British design. While well known and respected for manufacturing, Britain was loosing ground to European competitors across all design disciplines.
Jumping forward a few years, and after a successful Great Exhibition, Prince Albert had even bigger ideas. He wanted a dedicated space in the middle of London where everyone, regardless of social status could, for free, experience the best of the best of British and European art and culture.
It's still stunning.
It's still free for all to enter and enjoy (other than unique exhibitions)
It's ranked 11th globally for number of visitors.
It contains 4.5 million objects across the most diverse range of interests: ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, jewellery, drawings, photography sculpture, prints, furniture.
The Museum covers 12.5 acres, and houses 145 galleries.
One needs more than one visit, or if that's all you have time for, make sure you dedicate an entire day to the place and know the highlights you want to see while there.
My first visit was with a group of friends a few months ago. We had a two hour private guided tour of the highlights. The time flew and we knew we had only but scratched the surface of what this incredible building had to offer.
We met our guide under Dale Chihuly's Rotunda Chandlier which was created in 2001, drawing on the techniques made famous by the glass blowers in Murano, Venice. Each piece of the chandelier is free blow, or mould blown. My photo does not do it justice, so please take the time to google it, or better still, come to London and see it for yourself.
|Samson Slaying a Philistine.|
|Lots of interesting individual pieces to enjoy.|
We quickly found ourselves in the Reproduction Rooms. There were copies of famous sculptures and paintings, works wrapped for storage and some minor repair work being done. It was a quiet hive of activity. G has often said with so many galleries and museums around the world, where is the original? And when galleries and museums 'share' items for exhibitions, do they really share the original or are they superb reproductions - just think of the insurance!!!!!!!!!! Imagine what the consequences would be if 'it' broke AAAAAAHHHHHH. Now I've seen a room like this, I wonder too.
We saw a cast of Trajan's Columns (we saw the originals when we were in Rome a few years ago) and as they were placed low to the ground, we were able to admire the intricate carvings.
Another visit to the VnA recently to meet friends visiting from Sydney, I arrived early and took time to look at the Islamic Middle East exhibition. It's the first time I've had the opportunity to do this as I'm usually with other people for a specific exhibition and need to be done in time for the 2.10 train back to school! This exhibition is as beautiful as you'd imagine. The music to the videos is haunting.
The centrepiece to the exhibition in my opinion is the magnificent Ardabil Carpet, the worlds oldest dated carpet. The mosaics and pottery are beautiful too, but the Ardabil Carpet is simply WOW.
|The highlight of the exhibition is the Ardabil Carpet.|
None of my photos turned out, so I borrowed this from Google Images.
After hugs and kisses (hadn't seen each other for a couple of years, so it was a lovely reunion in the entrance to the museum) we saw the one-off exhibition, UNDRESSED, A Brief History of Underwear from the 18th Century to Present. WOW! Women have been suffering for the gender for centuries! Definitely time for Bridget Jone's big knickers to make a come back and stay!
We enjoyed a delicious lunch at the cafe under the most decorative of ceilings, before wandering the Silver section of the museum, followed by Theatre and Performance exhibition. Seeing one of the costumes worn by Michael Crawford in Phantom was incredible - it was so big and heavy we were amazed at his obvious strength on stage. There's a replica of Kylie Minogues' dressing room with 'real' Kylie items; several costumes from The Lion King and more.
It was rather hot'n'sticky with all the lights in this area, so we went downstairs and enjoyed a cold drink in the outdoor cafe watching the kids play in the decorative pond. It was a wonderful sight - young families enjoying the sunshine in the grounds of an historic building in the middle of London for free.
Afterwards, we strolled thru the Silver section of the museum before loosing ourselves in the Jewellery exhibition (permanent); WOW! Gems and diamonds and opals and gold and silver and platinum and gemstones from tiny weeny pieces to humongous pieces.
I simply love the V&A, so much so, I bought the book!
|Cover of V&A Book featuring history and major works.|
I sincerely hope if you're ever in London you have the time to set aside a day (at least) to visit this incredible legacy of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Pop back and let me know what you thought.