Architects as Artists
On display until 15 March 2015
Can one really limit the merits of Brunelleschi, the architect responsible for the creation of the dome on the Florence Cathedral, to simply architecture? He deserves a place among the ranks of artists. This display addresses the issue of when architecture crosses the line and enters the world of art. We can be sure that certain structures, ancient and modern alike, seek more than simply to achieve their functional purpose. The Victoria & Albert Museum itself is said to have an architectural design that is worth visiting besides whatever resides within. If you are interested in exploring further the true distinction between art and architecture, give this free display a try.
Disobedient Objects Exhibition
On display until 1 February 2015
Who would have thought that inanimate objects sometimes make the best rebels? If that never crossed your mind, then swing around to see this free exhibition and the objects that—unconsciously—make history happen. As is typical for this museum, this exhibit is the first of its kind due to its focus on the impact or use of objects during revolutionary changes, paying special attention to those that have occurred between the 1970s and now. Not only is it proof of the increasing sophistication of protesters and their methods, but it also demonstrates how technology is increasingly leaking into every sphere of our lives. Come on in to take a look at this unique, and increasingly relevant display of celebrity objects that vary from a suffragette tea service to lockboxes used in environmental demonstrations.
Wedding Dresses Exhibition
On display until 5 March 2015
Fashionistas, romantics, historians—all are welcome to this fabulous wedding dress exhibit that traces the evolution of the big white dress. Throughout recent history, women have awaited the day of their marriage to consummate the experience of love as well as fashion, donning possibly the most important and memorable gown of their lives. The symbolic importance and visibility of this dress has ensured that those elegant women who could afford it would pin down, literally, the most original, noticeable, yet tasteful dress available to them. On display are the dresses of Dita Von Teese and Gwen Stefani as well as dresses created by such designers as Vera Wang and Vivienne Westwood. Although it might make modern wedding dresses appear a little disappointingly plain, this exhibition is worth a visit as a testament to some of the greatest and most cherished, garments fashion designers have managed to produce.
On display until 11 January 2015
As the Victoria & Albert Museum is in England, it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at the old English classics, especially when they come in the form of John Constable’s beautiful landscape masterpieces. Though he is now revered internationally and especially loved and valued in his home country, Constable never achieved this kind of fame during his lifetime. He thus continued painting not due to financial motives but rather, as was common in the Romantic period, due to the emotions evoked by nature. While it would be lovely to take a trip down to Dedham Vale, or any of the other incredible nature spots he depicted, we are privileged enough to see the beauty of these sights through Constable’s art, enhanced by his own passion as it worked the brush. This exhibition is further rendered unique and a must by the fact that Constable’s most famous works are accompanied by his oil sketches, his engravings of his own designs and, finally, his own collection, which is what inspired much of his work.
Black and White: Prints from Africa and the Diaspora
On display until 6 July 2015
In the new media age, where much of the information we now receive is through videos or photographs, it is sometimes hard to appreciate the power held in something so seemingly simple as a print. However, in the past, print was one of the most effective and common ways of communicating. The prints of a certain era are more than just tasteful decorations for walls, such as clippings of old newspapers – they tell a story of hope, intention, and action, through the symbols on the page and those that could not be shared. In such a trying time as the apartheid, many could not articulate their anger or fear without the help of mediums such as words or images. These were clearly a vital mode of expression at the time and through the prints, varying from direct political remarks to more discreet societal allusions, we discover more about how many resisted, communicated, and felt at that point in time. A compilation of these prints is available to purchase.
Russian Avant-Garde Theatre: War Evolution and Design (WWI)
On display until 15 March 2015
When considering Russia in relation to the First World War, the approaching Russian Revolution would come to the mind of many. Few would speak about the explosion of culture that began around the beginning of the war and that continued for the following two decades. This explosion is precisely what this display hopes to bring to the attention of visitors, for it became the culmination of the Russian avant-garde theatre movement. In this field, the Russians have the right to feel proud – items in this display include set models, costume and stage designs, all of which embrace the new, geometric, often bright, style of the time. The innovation put into these works is clear in that some would later be banned by the central government due to how far they went in the direction of novelty, away from traditional art. The work of Kazimir Malevich, the founder of the Suprematist movement, will also be on display. This display truly chooses to take an unusual look at the Russia of that time, and indeed many of the pieces shown have never before been seen in the UK. So don’t miss your chance.
Theatre and Performance Gallery Tour
Tours are always the perfect opportunities to get to know any location better—especially if they are free. Ideal for the novice who seeks to gain an introduction and appreciation about an intriguing topic, as well as for the expert, whose purpose it is to ask those thoughtful and revealing questions that keep the guide moving forward, tours should be impossible to refute. This theatre tour, moreover, explores a subject on which the Victoria & Albert Museum has quite an extensive collection, evidenced by the aforementioned display of Russian avant-garde theatre, in which some of the pieces are the museum’s own. There is little lacking theatrically in this tour, as it covers everything from posters to costumes to sets and even includes new costumes from the Lion King. To participate in this tour, meet at the Grand Entrance at two in the afternoon.
Family Event – Back Packs
Museums are not, as traditionally assumed by children, boring places adults visit to walk about and gaze in silence—they are also ideal for children and the Victoria & Albert Museum intends to prove this. The award-winning back-packs activity is a perfect way to ensure your kids have fun and gain a little culture while they are at it. To participate, a child from ages 5-12, accompanied by an adult, need only borrow a backpack from either the Learning Centre or the Main Entrance, no booking required, and get cracking. Different bags are available, each of which contains a different adventure and a different set of activities. The bags include An Adventure in China, which involves tasks like writing your age in Chinese, Discovering Architecture, Emperor’s Party, Fancy Furnishings, Magic Glasses, Middle Eastern Marvels and Time Traveller, all of which children should love, if testimonials from past participants can be trusted. There is even an activity available for those who are less than five entitled Agent Animal, ensuring that none of the family is left out of the fun. The times for the event are from 10:30-17:00, though the last backpacks are given out at four, daily. They last for around 45 minutes, leaving you plenty of time to try all of them.
Happening every last Friday of the month, except for December, this flashy event is worth your time. Dedicated, as almost every event here is, to increasing visitors’ interest and exploration of the collections at the museum, this event changes monthly, but it is always centred on supporting contemporary visual and design artists. It attempts to benefit both the upcoming artists through exposure and regular visitors through an extra dose of culture. These events can feature shows, exhibits, fashion, debates, food and DJs, guaranteeing wide-appeal. Friday late starts at 6:30 in the afternoon and continues until 10 at night – entry is free on a first come, first serve basis. The most recent night, held on the 28 of November, was dedicated to the topic: What is Font? If that sounds limited to you, then you might be surprised to discover that 17 events were inspired by this title, including ‘Fonts of All Knowledge’, ‘The ‘Friday Late’ Font’, and ‘The History of Typography’, not to mention that food and drink was made available throughout the night. Keep in touch with the museum and discover what January’s Friday Night is.
The Victoria & Albert Museum is always seeking to spread the good news of culture and enlighten as many people as possible to the unique pleasure of art. For this reason, it offers many year-long tickets – also available per term or per day – for courses on topics ranging from ‘Arts of South and Southeast Asia and the Islamic Middle East’ to ‘The Twentieth Century: Masters of Modern Architecture and Design’ to ‘Italian Villas: Ancient Rome to the Renaissance.’ These courses typically meet once weekly and present the perfect opportunity to further explore a topic you may be interested in without sacrificing too much time, as it is extended over a long period. Courses are taught by experts in the specific fields, ensuring a complete and rewarding experience, as well as a chance to meet others who may share your unique interests. These courses are very popular for their convenience, depth and also the amount of events that they include, which are over 100 per year. Therefore do not waste time—book now before a course becomes sold out.
By Alyssa Erspamer