The Victoria & Albert Museum

Closest Underground Station: South Kensington

Admission: Free (apart from certain exhibitions)

I recently visited the V&A during a trip to London, after my friend had told me about their ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’ exhibition. Being disorganised I had missed the chance to book tickets for that particular day, which was the same way I had missed the much hyped Alexander McQueen ‘Savage Beauty’ exhibition!

I think subconsciously, I had slightly dismissed the V&A because it predominantly houses collections based on fashion, textiles and design. It has a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects and was opened by Queen Vic herself in 1857. While I do think that fashion and design plays a big part in society, I have probably been less attracted to this museum because I didn’t feel that its subject matter really drilled down into the roots of humanity, unlike museums I have visited before. But hey! Not everything has to be deep and some of what I learnt was very interesting.

The first section I looked at was fashion through history. I do love clothes, so watching dresses morph from massive crinolines and structured corsets in the 19th century, to more androgynous in the early part of the 20th century was great. It was also interesting to see how current events affected fashion; for example, in 1922 when Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, fashion started to incorporate some Egyptian touches, starting a trend known as ‘Tutmania’.

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Designs from Christian Dior
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Some major crinoline action

After this I moved on to the Asia and Middle East section. This section houses a lot of art and design work from Islamic countries, which can be evidenced from the geometric patterns in the tiles below. There are also beautiful examples of calligraphy, shown in extracts from the Quran.

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Islamic geometric design shown through tiles from Turkey
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Quran

The section about India also held some beautiful artwork from the time of the British Raj, Hindu sculptures and the traditional clothes and jewellery of the Mughal era.

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Clothing from Mughal India
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‘Native Lady of Umritsar’ – Horace van Ruith
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Indian art

Finally, I visited a free exhibition called ‘What is Luxury?’ This is not a question I had ever really considered, but once it had been asked I did start to wonder. Is luxury dependent on cost or exclusivity? Luxury surely differs from person to person. At what point do luxury and necessity integrate and once we start mixing the two, what effect does this have on us as people? The exhibition combined the philosophical question with beautiful designs relating to its interpretation. The exhibition runs until 27th September and can be found in the Porter Gallery.

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To be honest, I don’t know whether this will be one of those museums that I find myself visiting again and again. While certainly very educational, I feel it depends on the kind of areas you wish to educate yourself in and what kind of learning is important to you. While I would definitely say that the V&A was worth the visit, I think I’m generally more inclined towards learning about different cultures beyond the clothes and jewellery they wore and the patterns they surrounded themselves with.  As my friend ‘Brontë’ (who you may remember from my Rome post https://planeemoji.com/2015/06/24/meet-me-by-the-colosseum/) commented, “It’s all very pretty but where are the 3,000 year old bodies?”

Thanks for reading,

~ Plane Emoji

 

 

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